[from Lynda Hull's Collected Poems, 2006]
A woman, after an absence of many years, returns
to her old neighborhood and finds it a little more
burned, more abandoned. Through rooftop aerials
the stadium’s still visible where the boys of summer
spun across the diamond and some nights she’d hear
strikes and pop flies called through the open windows
of the rooms she shared with a man she thought
she loved. All that summer, she watched
across the street the magician’s idiot son
paint over and over the Magic & Costume Shop’s
intricate portico — all frets and scallops, details
from another century. The more he painted though
the more his sheer purity of attention seemed
to judge her own life as frayed somehow and wrong.
Daily the son worked until the city swerved
toward night’s dizzy carnival with moons
and swans afloat in neon over the streets.
One evening she saw the magician’s trick bouquet
flower at the curb while he filled his car.
He folded the multicolored scarves, then
caged the fabulous disappearing pigeons.
It is a common human longing to want utterly
to vanish from one life and arrive transformed
in another. When the man came home, he’d
touch her shoulders, her neck, but each touch
discovered only the borders of her solitude.
As a child in that neighborhood she’d believed
people were hollow and filled with quiet music, that
if she were hurt deeply enough she would break
and leave only a blue scroll of notes.
At first when he hit her, her face burned.
Far off the stadium lights crossed the cool
green diamond and burnished cobwebs swaying
on the ceiling. Then she became invisible,
so when the doctor leaned over and asked
her name all she could think of were her dresses
thrown from the window like peonies exploding
to bloom in the clear dark air. No music —
merely a rose haze through her lids, something
ticking in her head like a metronome
in a parlor, dusty and arid with steam heat.
How many lives she’d passed through to find
herself, an aging woman in black, before the locked
and empty shop. So much sleight of hand, the years
simply dissolving. Again she hears the crowd,
a billow of applause rippling across the brilliant
diamond, across the mysterious passage
of time and the failure of sorrow to pass away.