Central and Main

The little old woman
(she is just that),
whose skin is pale,
yellow from lack
of love, of sun
(from age, in short),
who's wrapped in plaid
her mother wore,
has crossed the street
to the library's door.

She brings back The Pearl
(pleasure for princes!),
which her sister translated
decades ago,
but also has under
her elbow the news-
letter of the Ladies
of The Blessed Trinity.
She knows how death
has brought two
to their knees today
and knows, without
an allegory,
what comfort, little,
can be given.

The other woman
who has crossed at the same
time is alert
to other signals.
Her lips are the color
of plum flesh,
her skirt the gauze
of moth wings,
her blouse shines
and through it the supple
swing of her breasts
makes red rise up
the throat of Mr.
Wilson, at the corner,
who also crosses,
who also dreams,
who loses his purpose
near the Bon Marché.

Now bright cars mosey
through the intersection,
of Central and Main,
having stopped for him,
for her, and even
for the old woman.
The fall air
is bracing, the sun
is full gold,
yet each one knows,
somehow, what's blowing,
brewing, coming.
O life, says each --
three spirits receptive
as Marconi's first
continent-kissing waves --
O life,
let it be me
who's here forever!

The Atlantic Monthly; September 1996; Central and Main; Volume 278, No. 3; page 82.

Presented by

Christopher Jane Corkery is a poet and essayist.

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