A Long(ish) Narrative Poem

This morning my daughter and I went to a cafe. She ordered a hot chocolate and scone. I got got a flat white and sparkling water. We spent a couple of hours sitting across from each other. She read a book, drew pictures. I wrote the start of an essay that might never become an essay and, feeling like I’d wasted pages and needed to salvage the morning, I returned to my short narrative poem to draft its expansion. When I write / revise poetry, I like to start in my notebook. I also like to stare out windows or at ceilings.

Margaret (Margit) Island Run

She wakes just after four when the sky
leaves night. When she cannot sleep again
she puts on running shorts and a bright coral
shirt made to feel like nothing at all, even
when it’s hot. She finds her shoes, unlocks the door
and walks three flights to the street, turns left
on a street of antique (antik) shops, galleries,
cafes. There are stoops wide enough for sleeping
homeless men (she counts three but returning
an hour and a half later, only one, arms crossed,
eyes closed like an infant, and where the others
were, the smell of urine). She crosses the bridge.
There are trails of urine from dogs or
men on their way home and a broken bottle,
its glass pieces catching sun, precise like
cut jewels. A pack of drunk young men cheer
when one of them runs backwards, keeps
her pace for ten or fifteen meters.
She looks at him, waiting to see what
the joke is but that’s it. He smiles, winks.

On Margaret (Margit) Island she passes
a woman bent over a metal bin
retrieving wine and beer bottles she
stands in a white plastic bag. There are other
bags full of upright bottles. Different
heights, shades, shapes. All open-mouthed, empty.
Maybe every Sunday this woman digs through
bins to pay each month’s electric or water.

She runs a path that loops the island, sees
a couple who is like a performance piece:
standing toe to toe, his head bent to hers,
unmoving. She passes another couple
kissing on a bench, limbs overlapping. And
then the path is empty for a stretch
and she goes to a quiet place (breath, footfall),
running steady, keeping her feet straight,
seeing the work of her body in her mind:
counting her cadence, reminding her hip
flexors and glutes they are made to move
like this and faster, telling her core be
strong. She comes together beautifully
on mornings like this, when she gets quiet
enough to listen hard, when she lets the work
of her limbs loosen her mind, calm her spirit.

One response

  1. love it. i’d sit at the table with you and claire, reading my book, watching passersby, or just looking at my daughter and hers.

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