She says every woman should own a little black dress, and during the time she tries them on I am thinking what she meant was every man should be married to and in love with a woman who wears a little black dress as well as she does, but I say It looks really nice on you, You should buy it, and I think, I will find events to which you can where it frequently, because it looks so good on you, and you in that little black dress make me look so good standing next to you, and men, although they will never admit it, are all so often about reflected glory.
Two men, having reached
an indeterminate age, sit on old chairs
outside the small town grocery, it’s
neon beer sign half, flickering, around
the corner from the bank on main street.
One, plaid shirt tucked in coveralls,
one bib strap unbuckled, leans back,
takes a turn on his long neck, his cane
propped against his leg, thankful for the rest.
The other, denim shirt bleached in spots,
threadbare in others, pours the remains
of a bag of potato chips into the plastic bowl
resting atop the empty 50 gallon drum that is
at this moment a table, later a platform
for the checkerboard both are not
drunk or bored enough to bring out.
He opens a beer on the edge of the drum
and both look up smiling at the clearing sky
and a Saturday afternoon in the
only America they have ever known.
As we walked slowly through the Forum
the Coliseum receding into the late
afternoon, the Virgins stood patiently
as befits a priestess trained to avoid
the stares of passing men, even tourists
such as we were, the columns staring
down reminding us of our youth
despite the birthdays that we celebrated
with the joy of togetherness, and
the nagging knowledge that we were
another year closer to that moment
we refuse to acknowledge, aware
always of its growing proximity.
We stare back at the Coliseum,
as the sun slides behind its walls,
and as the vendors selling all manner
of items the buyer will regret
in mid-flight home pack up for the day,
I imagine Caesar pausing in thought
then, sneering, turning his thumb down.
She says the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. He doesn’t have the heart to tell her That on a cosmic scale space is curved and no one wants the short straw anyway. She can, of course, read him, a skill she knows is reserved for women and is one of frustration to men. She laughs, and adds as if an afterthought there is a wormhole in the neighborhood. He has no idea what to make of her, and this is how she wants it for she and he both know so very well that the shortest distance between the male and female mind is a leap of logic only the most daring would attempt.
The wisest of men when asked at what time it is best to pursue the Way will answer when a thousand stars have made their presence known. The wisest student will say when cleaning myself by bathing in the mud. This will become clear when the frog consumes the dragon.
Along the river this morning, the gulls stood on fence stanchions watching the parade of walkers, runners, bikers like them ignoring the river, intent on logging the daily miles, oblivious to the panorama that lies just beyond our closely focussed eyes. The gulls offer a piercing commentary, and that is something we notice, and so unlike the Egyptian Geese of our Florida home, who chatter incessantly along our walks, like so many old men sitting much of the day in Riverside Park staring out over the Hudson River trying to clear phlegmy throats.
She stares at you, unwavering. You find this strange, wanting to see something more in her looks, but you get nothing from her, as you have gotten nothing from so many others before her. You know men are as capable of such stares as she, but you don’t tend to see them, your own gender blindness perhaps, or just that men are less interesting and more seldom seen in these surroundings, usually standing, posing, looking away. You want to know what she is thinking in this moment, what she sees in your face, transfixed, but the artist didn’t reveal that, and so she will stare as well at the next viewer throughout the gallery’s open hours.
It is always odd watching older men gather, talk about their lives, about how much they no longer remember, of last year, and a decade ago, about the infinite details they can clearly recall about the time they spent in the Army, Navy, Air Force, the smell of Slop-on-a-shingle, of field stripped butts in a small container in their olive drabs, of the base or post exchange where you could buy the mandatory Ray-Ban aviators, the Sergeant’s grimace, the body count in the war they never wanted, only wanted to end quickly, how they were once brothers in arms, now just old men sharing painful memories.
The wisest of men when asked at what time it is best to pursue the Way will answer: when a thousand stars have made their presence known. The wisest student will say: when cleaning myself by bathing in the mud. This will become clear to you when the frog consumes the dragon.