The Brewster’s Ladies’ Library started
by two ladies 150 years ago
is still going strong. My mother
volunteers there, holds the record
for the most volunteer hours worked
during the year.
“I love this place,” she says
as we leave the book stacks and wander back
into the newspaper reading room
with its musty newspaper smell. An old man
in a heavy brown coat, slouched down
like a crumpled walrus in a big leather chair,
doesn’t even glance up from his newspaper
as we enter the room.
But I can see the slight smile
as he overhears my mother’s reverent voice
talking about the library, with its quiet corners
and sacred spaces. “I love this place,”
she says again as she takes
my arm, the color rising in her cheeks.
My dad would be proud of her I think,
taking such good care
of all these books.
When our eyes would meet at the station
One Friday night in the winter
of 1971 I got the last seat
on the bus, back row
in the middle, the worst seat.
Sleet and snow turned
the one hour ride into two.
The woman beside me fell asleep
on my shoulder her name was Jean.
We had spoken briefly over the months,
so I knew she was 24
worked at Fortunoff’s in Manhattan.
But mostly we’d simply say hi when our eyes
would meet at the station.
She was tall, pretty and pleasant,
with long brown hair. I liked her
and watched her closely
and could tell she hated it when men—
especially middle-aged businessmen
with plump wives and kids in college—
made passes at her.
I never did that, never made passes,
only said hi when our eyes
would meet at the station.
That was enough for me
and she must’ve liked me too
and trusted me because she never fell asleep
on any other shoulder but mine.
The Wind off Mount Diablo
Sitting out under the big new red umbrella
in Dave’s back yard reading
Martin Amis’s The War Against Cliché
when suddenly, floating in on the wind
coming down off Mount Diablo,
it occurs to me that my life has slipped by
and I hardly even noticed.
I wonder – can I do anything different,
begin life anew at 62, or am I stuck right here
where I am for the duration –
however long (or short) that might be?
I don’t know, I really don’t know.
“But what do you want to do new at this rather
late stage of your life?” the wind asks.
I’m silent for a long time
like the wind should be. I’m thinking,
“Well, nothing new really. I’d like
to do what I’ve tried to do for decades now –
write a better poem.”
“So do it” the wind replies,
with a flip attitude, almost a sneer.
“But I don’t know how.” Silence finally
from the stupid wind. Then it slowly occurs to me
that I need to try something new,
anything new and different
perhaps might inspire me to new heights,
or at least to a different vantage point
from which to observe life.
I recall Dr. Raymond at Harvard telling us
that he began learning the violin at 80:
“You’re never too old to learn” he said.
“So, I guess there’s time yet for you after all”
the wind speaks up again, even after
I’ve asked him politely
to mind his own damn business.
She never said a word
not one word
to me in high school
but I never expected her to
why would she have she
was stunning – beautiful and confident
athletic and popular
with her blonde hair and tight
unstoppable teenage body
so when I received a Facebook “Friend Request”
from her I hit the “Accept” button so fast
I fell off my chair!
And yet I still had the audacity
to expect her to respond
to the dopey note I sent her:
“I just had to say hi
now that we are ‘friends’ on FB,
how are you?”
Of course she never responded
how could she, no of course she couldn’t
reminding me that even after 50 years
some things never change
without upsetting life’s delicate balance
reminding me that I should have remained
tongue-tied and awestruck, content
with my humble place
within the universe’s unimpeachable physics
and oddly I am.
© Michael Estabrook
Michael Estabrook has been publishing his poetry in the small press since the 1980s. He has published over 20 collections, a recent one being The Poet’s Curse, A Miscellany (The Poetry Box, 2019).