the stroll

keep me hidden.

coffee shop napkin in
an ordinary backpack
with an overburdened
zipper line gone so
curved; do examine
hopefulness the way
Miss Long Time Ago
taught us to separate
points from softness,
petals from blades of
grass leaving their
mark on white pockets
not too far from hearts
unprepared for cold.

fatigue is a lightbulb
dying each time we
stretch the wet towel
only to sigh as it laughs
somewhat weakly, for
it won’t be long before
we stand before mirrors
or some semblance of
a frozen lake, crevices
blooming sarcastically
as we turn a dozen pages
filled with recluses we
only think resemble us
if we erased every smile.

so we’ll walk.

such is her finesse

she told me I was a lovely girl
and that her son was lonely.

I was twenty-two,
listening to an almost-widow
apologize for my empty apron.

they told me not to expect anything,
so I didn’t, and told her I’d be fine.

she told me her husband was happy
and that he couldn’t read letters.

So, he couldn’t read “tip,”
but again, it’s not such a faux pas
when we recall the doctor easing cotton out the ear.

recently, I’ve been collected
though I never learned to organize.

truthfully, I’ve never chosen to
as I grab my backpack before the day.

After five, I searched for news
while staring at a love letter rolled up straight
and taut, written in ballpoint ink without any sound of my name.

eyes on the collar, I pawed at my keys,
gaze reciprocated when I pulled out a maxi pad two weeks early.

Back-To-School Shopping

I threw my shoes in a rusted trashcan. The one that accepted empty water bottles unconditionally, though the can for recycling stood less than a foot away. Two years old, with holes at the heels. Indeed, the passing of time suggested that like most women at crowded bus stops (the ones loudly pleading for their children to be quiet as they finished their back-to-school shopping), I would never pay my debts as a foot model. My hammertoe, bumpier still, would never traumatize those poor men waiting for hours at the urgent care clinic. Nor would my ingrown toenails command a second look as teenagers bitched in packs, walking home from the magnet school.

I always insisted that flats didn’t hurt. But Lori, with her Sharpie, had points to make as she traced around my calluses. I just returned home, in front of the Travel Channel, which reminded me that if I cared enough, I could seize a promotion and finally, buy gray plaid shoes with memory foam so I wouldn’t ache so much. Lori just wanted to remind me of ways in which I was cruel. Mainly, to my bones, and the scarred fishtails on which I stood.

Teenagers, again, walked before my indifference. Commercial after commercial, best friends smiling with those huge retro headphones blaring in some department store. I argued with Lori that it didn’t matter, that my toes were less than ordinary and life could be lived barefooted. She laughed, mentioning downtown potholes.

I conceded, seeking heels.