Two Poems

Maggie on the 66

She paid the fare, got hold of a pole, and thought,
He wouldn’t be there. Then, recalling how
tall he was: If he is, I’d see him from
the bus. Seemed sad to be so tall, how light-
houses and planes—so tiny and high in the sky
they look like shining jacks—how distance closes
those, and they shut to approach. But you
aren’t sorry for them. She liked him for that:
he was sad (a lighthouse with no light, a plane
without a place to land) but didn’t need
to be pitied, never hoping it
the way some people say, Oh, it's okay
then later want their permission invited back.
Together they’d devised the joke: installing
coffins with overhead call buttons to ring
for angels, the way airplanes have for flight
attendants. Seated under her a woman
cracked wetly into an apple. Loud as a Coke
opening. Since the day he’d said how Carrie
hoisted up her breasts like grocery bags
whenever she entered a room, she (Maggie) had
imagined—never pictured, but imagined—
Carrie’s bra stuffed with heads of lettuce—sometimes
artichoke leaves. She shivered, shifting as
if nudged. It never happened with Carrie there,
only if she was talked about. She pulled
a glove off with her teeth. In the other hand
the pole was cold, her bag slung on her arm
in silence growing heavier to a strain,
as if it was, slow as a coffee drip,
filling up inside with artichoke leaves.
Vegetables have personalities,
she thought, as a man shook his umbrella out,
just how a bird’s flap smacks and rustles its
cage. But compared to him she barely knew
Carrie. The bus squeaked, a silence pulled
up. Most of the tail is hair, she realized, seeing
a squirrel pick a pear split open on
a Halloween lawn. The bus heaved on. He’d called
her Mag. It felt as insult, from rhyming with Hag,
probably. After that, the hours had
sprouted less jokes. But today, he could be smoking
on her stoop, or waiting with his head
low at a book, as if reciting to
his shoes. She reapplied her glove and looked
down at her feet. Strange how his company
induced some habit intrinsic to her, but one
she had forgotten, or not known about
‘til now. Still, she was Maggie, though. Not Mag.
Named Magdalene, but seemed to seem like Maggie
to others, even to herself in mirror
looked the name, her hair sloped over shoulders
appearing two dimensional (reflected
now, imposed in the window glass of the bus’
wide view), her face wide, round, but with grace, she liked
to think—yes, this to her was Maggie: her
name. She (the driver) looked like a Diane,
her hand steadfast and tight at the summit of
the wheel, the other lingering low on its curve,
in a hat that made her hair look trapped. He’d said,
Maybe I’ll stop by. It’d poured before
but now the sidewalks, pavement on the street,
all dry; as though only the window had rained.  Remembered
he hadn’t seen her with hair down. Would she look
more her? A Maggie? She was cold, regretted
the lettuce, steadily forgiving Carrie
for that night at the bar she took her hair
behind her head, arranged it like a bow, then
said—only after—“Can I try this?” She
winced at remembering, but still it meant
someone had spent as much time as she thinking
about her hair; how would it stay put up?
But so obnoxious, though, she thought. And then,
This woman and her apple won’t shut up—
Someone rang the bell. Her stop was next.
He would be waiting for her there, she knew it.

An Hour in France

Drinking gilded Belgian beer in a brasserie
after an afternoon consumed squinting
in cathedrals
                     with ceilings chiseled several whistles high

a Frenchman hunched in a sham leather jacket
spoke second English to a Californian, a recent graduate
in Agricultural Diplomacy, with the facial hair
of a firstborn Amish son.
                                                       Delayed two days
by a friend who’d overslept her train, the student was debating
renting a motor scooter. Instantly as if prodded
the man became more articulate. He was a distributor
of Yamahas throughout France
and sometimes parts of Spain.
                                                  He had a nephew,
a student traveling down the American east coast
cruising the deflated dollar like a surfboard.

   “He studies at the UPMC,” he nodded. “La bio. Biology.”

I stopped listening, entranced by
the reflections of pedestrians outside
warping obesely
             in the glintless mock gilt trimming the bar.

Tuning back to the conversation, I heard
Matt from Berkeley begrudgingly say, “The train goes too fast
to really see the scenery”
                                         and in thirty minutes learned why
he hates pelicans, that the next week he’d put aside
for Berlin’s urban forests
                                              before flying home to visit
his out-of-state aunt, who annually mails him a new
                                                                       snow globe
   containing the Golden Gate Bridge.