He’s searching for a pair of
sea-green eyes, a strand of
streaked blond hair, the full lips
he hungrily kissed by the lake in
Central Park some fifty years ago.
It all comes back,
impromptu concerts on the A-Train,
grimy stations with “Bird Lives”
sprayed on every wall,
Marianna playing Debussy
on her shiny Baby Grand
while her cross-eyed zayda
makes strudel in the kitchen,
the large hands of the pretzel man
who shouts “getemwhyltherhot,”
petitioners for world peace
jogging in place to keep warm.
He listens for a Magyar accent,
he watches for a handkerchief
held in a moist palm.
The women’s hips are broader now,
the men’s backs slightly bent,
their faces marked by tiny lines
like the drypoint etchings
they used to do in art class.
Without their plastic tags,
he’d be hard-pressed
to recall their names.
For the umpteenth time, he’s telling
the nickel version of his life
when he hears her voice.
He turns and half a century
collapses like kindling in a fire.
He’s seventeen again and
love is flaring up so strongly
he fails to hear her husband’s name.
(Originally published in Every Day Poets)