I saw a sparrow hop across the carpet
in the library
toward the Express Collection Shelf.
I flicked my head
like an illusionist’s cape
& it was gone.
I went back to the article about Stevie Van Zandt
& his Summer of Sorcery Tour
& the sparrow
With another flick of my head
into a series of tan dots — & dashes.
Time to head off
to the optometrist again.
Your poems are standoffish, he says.
You put fences around them to keep
‘Trespassers Prosecuted’ signs to keep
Your poems secure,
Guard dogs patrolling the perimeter
Snarly with menace.
Call off the dogs, he says
Open up your poems.
What are you afraid of?
People got to walk around.
Let the sunshine in.
You’re supposed to listen to your writing coach, right?
Okay, okay, I say
As I take down the tall palings
One by one.
Put up a Welcome sign.
It’s a little scary for me too.
Someone once said to me, Expect the Unexpected.
It seemed daring at the time so I took it on board.
The only problem was because I expected the Unexpected all the time I wasn’t really surprised when it happened.
It was expected, right?
Life was losing its surprise factor.
I felt heavy as a watermelon.
My counsellor suggested — wait for it — Expect only the Expected.
So I do,
When the Unexpected happens I light up like a lantern
twinkle like a star.
It wasn’t expected, right?
Unstable Cliffs, the sign read. Extreme Danger. Stay Clear.
And I thought of the unstable Cliffs I had known:
The deputy that barked at me when I called in sick,
My cousin’s boyfriend who punched holes in the wall
Whenever he was denied,
And the glue-sniffing Cliff I taught in Year 11 who fell asleep
On the tracks and was run over by a train.
They should have come with warnings too.
You always want the last word.
Do you ever look at yourself in the mirror, question yourself?
You like things open and shut. In neat little packages.
Even when we can’t see you, we hear you.
I’ll give you this. You go about your work quietly, not like your loud, foot stamping cousins
But there’s so many of you. You could loosen up, give others a go.
I know in some countries you go by a different name
But a rose by any other name is still a rose
And a full stop by any other term is still a full stop.
The rain has begun.
I park the car close as possible, then dodging the drops, duck into the library.
“Ahh,” says the librarian, “we’ve been wading through your requests and look what’s washed up.”
It is like Santa handing over a present.
“Ahh, ‘Waterlog’”, I say.”The perfect book to read in the bath,”
“Just don’t drop it,” he says.
I should have seen that coming but Steve is quick, very quick.
“Thanks,” I say and we have a brief chat on the merits of reading in strange places, like baths.
“Have to go”, I say. “The rain’s getting heavier.”
By the time I get to the car, the book and I are waterlogged.
Steve would have appreciated that pun.
Now I don’t have to worry about dropping it in the bath.