Unsolicited, unhinged

Second balmy November day in a row:
perfect blue sky, scent of damp earth beneath crinkled leaves,
the trees waving a last frantic hallelujah with their small many-pointed hands,
shaken free of narrow wrists.

I walk ten blocks or so each day, between schools. Today at the last busy intersection
(waiting for the light to change)
I saw a blind man opposite me,
the tip of his cane scanning the red brick of this Historical District,
pausing, listening to the brush of traffic. Calm and capable.
I stopped myself from raising my voice, informing him when it was safe to walk.
I didn’t want to offend.

Always find myself catching myself, reigning it in:
that need reach out and hang on, to warn you,
the impulsive reaching out of a mother to the passenger seat
at an unexpectedly abrupt stop.
I’m no one’s mother. I reach out for strangers.

I am always thinking of the times I should not have reigned it in.

As I round the corner I can see the students who have left their heavy coats inside,
running across the playground, clustered near the fence.
From a distance I can already recognize the ones I know:
a bright yellow shirt, the crook of an arm, a shout, the muffled laughter behind hands.
Near the door a very small boy who I do not know
sits cross-legged in solitude, eyes dark. I ask if he’s okay.
He is, he says. Just checking, I say.

I can’t help myself.
Sometimes I still almost break the impervious silences,
many times I almost call, still want to make sure.
I remember the girl crying on my bathroom floor.
I remember the rain on a borrowed coat, I remember
scouring dark streets for a lost wallet, making international phone calls
to worried parents whose daughter we rescued from countless indiscretions
in the filthy bathrooms of bars.
I remember international calls whose digits I dialed over and over again,
miscalculating time changes, leaving messages at odd hours,
trying to unravel the mysteries of communication.

Someday I will break through my tact and give you unsolicited reassurance;
I’d still give anything to tell you,
to prove you wrong, because I am still here,
arm flinching outward, protecting empty space,
filling up my arms with vacant gestures.


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