Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Crosswalk

Walk sign turns red. A woman waits to cross.
   She pulls a tiny mirror out and primps.
She checks her eyeliner; applies lip gloss;
   Then looks right at me—and I get a glimpse
Of oceans no one's ever sailed. And all
   The unsailed deep in me that no one knows—
Because we meet the world as an atoll
   That hides a continent—sees her and glows
Like the Atlantic under a full moon.
   For one brief moment, that look stops me short
Like the loud bursting of some kid’s balloon
   Or the bang of a .38’s report.
      The solid earth cracks open, eggshell-thin.
      Do I jump off, or let myself fall in?

Some people open up like ancient caves.
   Some have thick plastic on their heirloom chairs.
Some have a cellar packed with hidden graves
   And some run classrooms full of questionnaires.
No matter what or how much the world sees,
   We all contain the inaccessible—
A country of uncategorized trees
   And cryptic creatures by the barrowful—
Unglimpsed, no matter how much we reveal
   About ourselves—no matter who we say
We are. What we portray, as if it’s real,
   Is like one planet in the Milky Way.
      That’s what I see—and seeing, recognize—
      The moment that I meet this woman’s eyes.

How can I fool myself into believing
   That I'll know you, I think, when under all
I splash through is a hidden ocean, heaving
   With tides unknown, held in by the sea wall
That is your public face? Even your eyes
   Only go down so far. And while there’s much
In them to satisfy and tantalize,
   There’s bone beneath that skin which I can’t touch.
It doesn’t matter if or how I’ve cared.
   What only matters is the ground you yield.
I only get to swim in what’s been shared.
   I only get to map what’s been revealed.
      And even if you yield it all, there’ll be
      A world—a life—that I will never see.

We have eons in us, but all we know
   Is moments. They sum up our history.
And if we're lucky, when they're shared, they grow
   Into new islands on a common sea.
No—not an island—it’s a mountaintop
   No one can measure without long deep dives.
We live between the darkness and the drop
   And when we die, the tip’s all that survives.
And now and then we meet at a crosswalk
   Between where we are now and where we’re going—
A pebble from an undiscovered rock;
   The splinter from a tree that’s always growing—
      And wonder—will we let this spark ignite?
      Or smile and part, when the walk sign turns white?

Copyright 2016 Matthew J Wells

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