for more birthdays
Pneumatic tubes carry deposits
across the sterile, starkly lit ceiling
forming bleachy white grids
and like The Naked City, each light shines brightly
on a different story.
Under grid number 36 DD stood “copper red,”
at least that is what the box had promised,
but on her hair it looked more like a cross between tiger lily
and orange blossom. The vibrant schmata flowed
over her white bandeau, picking up her hair color.
She was looking for books for grandchildren
I offered my advice, after all I was there
& she needed my help. Her eye fell on my cart.
Oy this place is such an addiction. What did you find?
& then, What do I care right now –
I just had a double mastectomy,
not wearing a bra, not dressing up.
More concerned about the right books,
laboring over titles and costs for the holidays
than she was about herself. I moved my cart along.
Looking down, purple flip-flops crossed like tic tac -her toes,
beautifully manicured below those white chinos,
drew my eye up.
Grid number 34 B reminded me of an English
garden, fragrant, beautiful, sweeping the eye.
Past the floral caftan, what stood out was her smile
under close cropped hair. I knew we would speak,
let her go, continued through the maze. The next
time I saw her, she and a friend were laughing,
& again, I looked forward to the meeting I knew was coming.
my path a third time, I spoke to her of beauty,
and was gifted with warm grin.
How did you find the courage to cut your hair so short?
No choice, my hair fell out & it is just growing in now.
She noticed my Relay for Life shirt, heard my promise
to shave my head for St. Baldrick’s Day.
Again, that warm smile, Oh do that!
When my hair began to fall out, my boyfriend
shaved mine. I thought I’d suffocate trying
to put on this turtle neck!”
I returned her smile from Grid 36DD.
She looked more closely. Oh you poor thing!
If more than half
of my palsied mouth could have hung open,
it would have.