I first read Eliot in junior college
when I didn’t even make my own coffee.
Bought at the diner, no measuring
and no coffeespoons, drunk bitter
and black in the days before ulcers
took up residence in my guts.
20 years later, now the one standing
behind the desk, looking out
at simultaneous hope and apathy sitting
in classroom chairs trying to understand
between tweets under desks
what the fuck this guy meant
when he wrote of women pacing through rooms
whispering about some renaissance painter
like it mattered anymore.
And me no better,
my brain filled with mortgage payments
(only 264 to go),
committee meetings, television
streamed on Netflix.
I’d sit in my office and stare
out the window, pale yellow leaves clinging
to a birch tree growing in front of redbrick.
Then one afternoon she left
a brown paper sack in the hallway
by the door, bottle of soda and candybar
inside, sweet upon sweet, along with a note:
“Dare to eat a peach” printed below that perfect
simple fruit drawn in pen on a torn
scrap of white cardboard.
I’d been standing on the shore hearing only the hollowness
of waves against rocks, lights of fishing boats
and freighters bobbing on the horizon.
But here in my hands was the voice of a mermaid.
It would cost me marriage and home and job, but
to ignore that song would be to sign a contract
hereby agreeing to quiet desperation backed by a soundtrack
playing in the next room so that you weren’t sure
if it was a Chopin Nocturne or Miles Davis.
Photo by Chocolate Reviews