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In Time

1 She Who Scrubs on Hands and Knees the Floors

on a usual day
sets her canvas sack between her legs
and waits.
But today her three-year-old
tucks in the handle-straps,
pats a flat seat
and watches the long-tail yellow dog
wind its kinked chain around the bus stop pole,
chew fur
off its spindly thigh.
The green
eye at the crosswalk blinks orange red
orange orange red. Long brick
walls sidle the street,
tall oaks linger over locked
see-through iron gates.
Green. Orange.
Red. Over the hill the #12,
its wide glass cheeks
wet with sweat.

2 After the Picnic

Parentheses around the last
sigh of day—
a voiceless pause
a pause
that spent its voice.
The tired dog who trained its owner to throw for fetch
curls into the back seat,
rolled-up tablecloths wrap the bowls
from rattling.
The old engine mutters:
Monday is 6 a.m., alarm, swipe of toothpaste,
sip of juice, unbuttered toast.
Behind, the creek
on a bed of flat pebbles sleeps, and ants
haul mighty crumbs.

3 Purple

His Aunt Bessie’s living room
was heavy drapes
tall flock-paper walls
tongue-dry
velvet cushions on
sable-brown mahogany chairs
a wide arabesque-
bordered rug and strudels
still warm.
Some late afternoons
daylight, loyal and patient,
waited
outside the massive front door.
But most days
he glimpsed the backside of dusk
turning the corner,
its arms swinging a racewalk
knuckles sore
from the useless spate
of knocking.

Denise Bergman is the author of Seeing Annie Sullivan, poems based on the early life of Helen Keller’s teacher, which was translated into Braille and made into a Talking Book. She conceived and edited City River of Voices, an anthology of urban poetry, and was the author of Keyhole Poems, a sequence that combines the history of twelve specific urban places with the present. An excerpt of one poem from that series, “Red,” is permanently installed as public art in Cambridge, MA. Denise was poetry editor of Sojourner, a Women’s Forum, and hosted a cable TV show, Women in the Arts.

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