Page 15 - WTP Vol. XI #3
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 party. He tears off the top of one of the packages and bends to offer the open bag. He is a minister provid- ing communion. All are welcome to receive his bless- ing and sink their teeth into the artificially flavored sugar and crème filling.
Inside the same store, a woman shouts into her phone, “Mom, why do you always do this? You know I try to love you but you make it so hard.” She’s stand- ing in the pasta aisle, but it’s as if she is on a stage re- citing lines in a play no one wants to be audience to.
A kid on a skateboard with a party-sized pizza box almost knocks into me on the sidewalk. I am instantly
“Ipass one hiker who needs to stop and tell me
her whole story, her job, her choice of socks, what time she needs to get home. The next hiker that passes says nothing, not even hello.“
angry. “Can’t you watch out,” I say under my breath. Then I watch as he pivots and stops, leans down with the pizza to a homeless guy on the curb, and with a grand gesture lifts the lid as if it were a silver dome and he was a high-class waiter. Which he is. The homeless guy takes a warm slice, thanks the kid, and the kid skates down to the next homeless person on the corner. And I know he is such a better person than I’ll ever be.
“If I give you two pennies, then you can give me two quarters back in change,” I say to the cashier. How oddly satisfying it is, making this simple purchase of bananas and paying in cash. How much more “real” it seems than ordering online and paying with plas-
tic. Now, if only I knew who grew the bananas and shipped them here, all for only 59 cents per pound.
“Is that boat real wood?” a child asks, as we canoe under the bridge where she leans, playing Pooh Sticks. “Yes it is,” I tell her, “and we’re real explorers, just back from circumnavigating the universe.”
Walking across campus, I see such an array. It’s like
one of those odd fashion shows I read about where it’s not about wearing an outfit so much as outfit- ting an excursion. There are blouses with pom- poms, scarves with feathered fringe, enormous diaper pins, polka dot socks or no socks but leg warmers, baggy camo shorts, tight neon tanks, Cin- derella princess gowns. It’s like overhearing several conversations at once, everyone out, out of closets, out of doors, staring into tiny plastic phones, reach- ing out but essentially alone. I check my own outfit of sneakers, canvas shorts and a t-shirt and wonder what I am conveying.
I walk by a woman in a poncho laying her head against a tree as if listening to it beating. She doesn’t look up when I pass, so deep is her concentration.
A man leans out his driver window and blows ciga- rette smoke in my face. “Can you tell me how to get
to Prospect Hall?” he asks. “Sure,” I say, “turn around and take a right before the bridge.” “But it says here,” he says, holding up his phone. “I don’t need your phone,” I say, “Just turn around and take a right before the bridge. Isn’t that why you stopped me and asked me for directions? To have a person tell you the way?”
“Everything happens for a reason,” a student says. “Oh, and what reason is that?” I want to ask, “You failed to plan ahead? Didn’t bother to read direc- tions?”
The dragonfly caught in the spider web in our bed- room window makes the cat jump and claw my leg before she leaps to the sill. She could watch it all day—the fly’s glistening wings, its fight for freedom. And I could watch the cat, her focus, how she chews the air.
I turn around on a trail and find a doe and two fawns following me. When I walk toward them, they do
not scare but instead stare. It’s hunting season, I tell them, best to make yourselves scarce.
Christmas Eve and Nicki is out on our icy road, risk- ing neck and chin to bring us a bottle of sparkling and tuna crunchies for the cats, risking it all to be neighborly. Later we open our front door to wind and cold so we can better hear them, the pack of coyotes nipping. They are right behind Nicki’s house. They turn us into cats with wild ears. This is how it ends, we think, then we turn off the lights.
Johnson’s poems have recently appeared in The Meadow, Dash, Front Range Review, Aji, and v. She lives in South Hadley MA.

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