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