Sunday, July 6, 2008

Poem of the Week #27

The Man on the El

His eyes tell a story of the old country. Which one,
I cannot say. But his gaze, like the scarred mirror
in a lover’s locket, speaks to me of an old place.

It's a sunny day in the old country of his eyes,
with family gathered round a table laid for a feast.
There, a small boy without care runs under sturdy trees

between the legs of the uncles drinking quietly
and old women in black, picking their teeth in the shade.
Their arms grip him like a vice, but cannot keep him

from the call of the train. Too young to see disappointment
in the arms of raven-haired girls, or fear in the faces
of silent men, he vows to leave them behind. Now, his eyes

have traveled so far, they’ve become dark scopes
that magnify a world lost under creased brow. His eyes
peer over the edge of me as though down a dry well.

He sees past my weathered doorways and worn icons
to a bed draped in crochet. Something about me makes him
smile. Before we get to Halstead, should I offer my name?

Should I ask him to marry me? If I were to open
the lunchbox at his feet, would I find what remains
in my own pail? A crust of bread, a rind of cheese?

Lisa Vihos

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