by  Beate Sigriddaughter   

 

 

16TH STREET MALL SHUTTLE

 

 

On the way home from riding the roller coaster

twice, once in the front car, still fizzy with thrill,

Emily sits down on the mall shuttle, then notices

a small black man, even older than she is,

standing, leaning on a cane. All other seats

are taken. She jumps up and offers him her seat.

“No, thanks,” he says with a wrinkled smile,

“but you could give me a blow job.

Do something that’s really useful.” She turns

her head. Above them a sign reads

“Cancer cures smoking.”

 

 

 


 

EMILY WRITES TO HER FATHER IN HEAVEN

 

 

Dear Dad, she writes,

 

It is dark autumn. I remember

your dramatic whispers on New Year’s Eve,

your hand cupped over your left ear:

“The year slinks away. Listen.

Can you hear it?” I listen

to gypsy music often these days, still

wanting to find that one song you used

to sing in the car. It is a haunting tune,

words full of tears of love or longing,

I can’t remember which. I remember

your vibrant baritone. I know

how to play the melody on my flute,

but haven’t been able to find the song

in everyday reality.

 

I know you wanted to be loved. You did

all you could to make this happen,

and I truly wanted to comply

and love. It simply never came to pass.

There was a barrier between us,

your occasional rage, my cautious mistrust

of you, your God, your Nazi past. You went

to Heaven fourteen years ago. I know

you went to Heaven. That was always

the plan. I never cried for you. At first

I waited for the tears to come.

After a few years I stopped waiting.

 

I have hundreds of pages of notes

about you, more than I had

for my dissertation before I decided

to drop out of school. I am bewildered

here. If I cannot love you, how can I

ever be good enough for life

and life be good enough for me?

 

 


 

A CHALLENGED SOUL

 

When she was ten, she had a glowing

moment of nobility. Anyone who asked

for anything at all, she resolved,

if she had it, she would give it.

How her young soul shimmered.

 

First test came at eleven, summer camp.

A zealous fellow camper asked

for contributions to a worthy cause.

Emily can’t remember what it was.

Bangladesh, Africa, something to do

with children and hunger most likely.

She had made plans already

for her small allowance, had felt rich,

expansive. She canceled plans and gave

what she had. She did not suffer exactly,

but forever after she disliked the girl

for asking.

 

These days she takes a shortcut

through back alleys on her way to work.

She walks by broken bottles,

two or three times a mattress

labeled “bedbugs” by the dumpster

pungent with fish and other things.

This to avoid the sidewalk out front,

next to the Lutheran church

where a heavy man sits each morning

asking for spare change in exchange

for a smiling “God bless.”

 

Her soul feels dusty and defensive.