I live near Seattle where, for my day job, I work as an arbitrator. For a few decades, I wrote poems for the desk drawer. In recent years, I have begun to publish. My poems have somehow made it into about two dozen journals, including Crack The Spine, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Zone 3.
Who’d call on us this late? Can’t help but think
about a blow one Christmas eve, a knock
my friends and their boys hospitably answered.
The overhead light blinds our rain-slicked porch.
A haloed glaze obscures the peepholed view,
his image silhouetted to distrust:
Rap, should I answer? Rap rap, no one here?
A birch door holds us just inches apart.
Does he still have a knife? Remind me how
the Lord is watching over our thresholds. Washing
the feet of wayfarers now relegated
to comic trope in a parochial
school pageant—our commandment: not to greet
but safeguard. Double-bolted, my door invites
his doubting stare for signs of Yes or No
in Abrahamic code without a key.
His face seems open. Shut, mine thinks of kids
asleep above—though I try to mute a chorus
from their volunteering at the shelter:
It’s usually worse for those who have to ask.
I half-pity his drenched features, fathoming
we’re not neighbors, just creatures who believe
doors are meant to pivot, fellows to commune—
till one of us turns away… then the other.
A Gaelic word for the underarm, one that pits politeness against
we cover over.
It has a murky ancestry, somehow distantly rooted in
the Latin, axilla,
but that seems a stretch,
like me at a summer cocktail party, the terrace perspiring
with guests and trays
of limp hors d’oeuvres,
a greeter closes in buzzing, Mike, what’s new?, my stammering
muffled by his clasps
and a whiff of booze.
Side-stepping to the bar for fortification, I wonder what excites him
to work the party,
its threads of chat—
a bee more focused on the pollen than the flower?—
while I stand inert,
a garden bronze
(the figure miscast) wondering how best to
lift an arm and
check my watch.
The clink of glassware makes me think of distant wind chimes
dangling at sunset
on a cottage eave,
the clustered bodies and voices not unlike bobbing heads of
chickens we once kept
penned in the backyard,
their warmth and smells not so much attracting each other
as just part of
and there always seemed to be one who stood apart, pecking, and one
who approached to test
which really isn’t so terrible if somebody interesting
wants to strike
up a conversation—
so again I try to tell somebody What’s new, unsure if the stain’s worse
from not belonging
or from trying to fit in.
©2018 Michael Sandler
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