A Bystander's Face
Though I thought I was on a date, a swim in a quarry,
I was lost, far from anywhere I could call home.
What I understood as a smart career move
turned out to be a ride in the cramped back seat of someone’s pickup
and what I thought was the romance of all time
and the cottage to hold it
turned out to be a rickety wheel that kept spinning, spinning.
The chores, the endless, wiping, washing, buying,
trashing—were they the dream turned inside out
or the dream itself?
What I saw as brown bunches of lilacs left over from May
were the burnt feathers after a fire in a chicken coop
and what I heard as the painful whine of the smoke detector
turned out to be your voice calling me to your room
for help getting up in the night.
The nervous bark of a young dog
was the howl of an old dog trapped under a fallen chair.
The hum of an elecric heater turned out to be
an airport escalator coming off its track, tumbling down,
and when I thought I saw a tree’s branch
poke like a fingertip into a bystander’s face,
the branches quavered and there was no face.
I saw a crowd of people, but there was no crowd,
simply fears lined up with masks and placards
threatening bystanders, me.