Encounters in a New World

As soon as I see the needle, I want

to turn on my heels, leave my fear to skitter

across the cool tiles, staccato

of childhood ghosts.

I am furtive with my panic, swallow it

in the clammy, strobe light

swirl inside my chest. Still, I blurt,

“I’m terrified of needles.”

The nurse’s eyes meet mine, sharp blue

of surprise, glimmer of gentle humor.

I know this is routine, a blink

between breaths, and yet my runaway mouth

continues: “I think I’m going to pass out.”

She smiles, the only softness in the scanty

white-walled room. “It’ll be OK. Just talk to me.”

A ladled warmth. My empty mind. The seconds

inching by. “Tell me, how was your day?

Just keep talking.” So I begin to prattle,

though the twinge comes before she will know

what I write for a living, how the hours have been a famine

of fertile ideas, or the way her kindness burrows

deep to startle a sheen of tears.

I carry its scent, balm of myrrh, corolla blush

unfolding against the memory of the old man

who is all teeth in a cracked olive sun, a mouthful

of questions in his grin as he approaches me

in a bookstore, hopeful in his loneliness.

I abandon my reading when he stops at my table,

though it’s the book that breaks the ice, unfolds

his curiosity, the lilting thickness of his voice.

He settles into the chair I offer, we slice

into the afternoon, no exchange of names

only laughter and a few ragtag notes

from the canyon stretch of our lives.

When he leaves, he pats my shoulder, lets

his fingers linger, imprint of blessing,

of something remade or found

like the nod of the supermarket cashier

when I tell him Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,”

delivering its third incantation that week, is a song

for our times, as its final falsetto note

exhorts us to “make that change.”

“Don’t even get me started,” he says, bagging

my soy milk, organic berries and our eyes meet

with all our brown skin and bruised steps

and scalding affront cannot say.

Behind me, a customer waits. Another exits

with a jangle of keys, a paper bag rustle.

We stand still, anchored in a new

communion, the language

of being seen.


7 thoughts on “Encounters in a New World

  1. can you hear me snapping my fingers? the way the poets do when they acknowledge that once again, another in our tribe has “nailed it” —in this “common language of being seen”
    two wild, dancing poets, stop for a moment over a cup of morning grace..thank you my dear one! see you friday!


    • Ah, glorious friend – how I missed your wild, dancing poet’s heart on Friday. And thank you, thank you for your finger snaps. Sending you much love and hoping you have had time to restore and balance this weekend.


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