A judge now, having read
Law, married Becky, settled in a fine house
Overlooking the Mississippi. Gruff
In a three-piece worsted, a Derby
And a gold watch, fob and chain.
Harrumphs at those gaudy rumors
Of airships and African adventures.
Frowns at rude schoolboys. He knows
Their game. The practiced trickery
Of smart alecs, their whitewashed
Duplicities. Authorizes the padlocks
For that terrifying cave where once he
And Becky wandered with their candles
Guttering as love does over the years.
He never speaks of the bloody fingerprints
Where the Indian scrabbled for light.
Carves his Sunday roast
Laser-blue of her gaze
Confounds the evil-doers.
Flying the invisible plane
Of her resolve, she lassos truth
From liars. The supermen of
Justice confirm her as secretary.
To serve coffee. To answer phones.
She kicks up her heels
In tight scarlet boots. Leggy and determined
As the girl secretly reading
Forbidden comics in the basement
Of a city bungalow.
Years later, when that girl learns
She will lose a breast, she remembers
The Amazons sliced off
One pendulous tit to enable
The tendon of the bow to tighten.
That page where a woman grips with
Silver gauntlets and stands spread-legged.
The scar she’ll bear as testament
To her singular wonder.
“All work is art.”
“Work is joy.”
A man picks up a shovel
On the coal docks, loads a barge.
His shoulders ache, his mind hauls
A thought that disappears in the sweep
Of his biceps. He’ll have a shot and beer
Once the whistle blows. His wife at home
Pushes soaking clothes through the wringer,
Hangs them up to freeze on winter’s line.
His children eat and learn.
They fidget at the table.
What would he tell them of art and joy.
Sit down. Say your prayers.
The wave that drowns the Afghan boy
Escaping to a new life is the wave
That lifts the barge with its cargo of flowers
From the casket of a reef
And is the wave in the hair of the girl
Who dances in a rave in a slum in Edinburgh
Or the wave for which a boy with a surfboard lurks
And the wave that crashes on a beach
In an old movie to signify
Censored passion. The wave
Of starlings in their murmuration
Erases the horizon, that’s the wave
That takes a village out to sea,
The hand that lifts and falls.
© Joan Colby