all poems and photographs
© by Maya Stein

all poems and photographs
© by Maya Stein
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Monday, August 30, 2010

look both ways




















Yesterday, two blocks out of the train station, a man stopped you,
told you how beautiful you were, took your hand and asked
if he could buy you a cup of coffee. The man
had not ogled you wolfishly. He had not cornered you in an alley.
It was a windy weekday afternoon, and the day had roughed you up.
You thought, briefly, about offering yourself.
You thought about the indulgence of limited engagements.
You thought about the flicker in the man's eyes,
how easily you could have given in.

But almost as quickly as his compliment landed,
you withdrew from it, retracted your hand from his,
said something about needing to get home even though
nothing there required your attention.
Scuttling the last blocks to your front door,
you were slightly embarrassed for your hasty escape,
a little sorry for having abandoned the man
and his invitation. But you knew not to go back.
You were certain he was not your destiny. You were certain
you were not going to spend summer vacations
on a New England lake, send your children off to college.
There would be no growing old together. Coffee would have been
the first and last lie between you.

The heart is a ruthless muscle. It doesn't look both ways,
doesn't think twice about the crossing.

Inside, your house was almost punishing with silence, and yet
you were never more aware of your defiance and your hope,
love still like a young bird inside you, a feisty and feral yearning.
And though it seemed like you couldn’t possibly remember it, you did –
that first moment of your wild entrance into the world,
what it must have shaken from you, that tidiness of the womb
vying with an anchorless departure, and how you knew
in your bones, in your blood, that this
was the way of things, this was the exchange necessary,
the requisite divorce from a perfect but isolated
half-existence. This was the gift you were offered,
and you took it, unquestioning, full of momentum, and with a battle cry
of triumph. And you realize, now, that no matter
how long the passageway, you will follow it.
No matter the dim-lit narrowness, the tight corners,
the pull and grief of departure – you will stomach it all because
you need every inch to tell you where you’ve been, you need every
minute to tell you you don’t have a moment
to waste.

7 comments:

splendid said...

well worth the wait
excellent!

Maureen said...

So many wonderful lines stand out. One I especially like: "love still like a young bird inside you".

Beautifully written.

Andrea said...

so beautiful

margie said...

lovely.

Christina Rosalie said...

Your poems fill me up, always.

Abbas Razzaghpanah said...

Exquisite.

Veena said...

This is wonderful.

(I so enjoyed your workshop in Toronto, and am now drinking up your 10-line poems like wine.)