Day of Atonement

A sixteen-year-old girl weeping

in the dark basement room

I didn’t understand

God watched me

through the ceiling

as if it were the cover

of the golden mercy seat.

If I could have sensed anything beyond

overwhelming pain

I would have breathed in

fragrant prayer incense

felt flicked sacrificial blood

trickle down my forehead

glimpsed Yahweh’s great glory

as the bright cloud settled above me

between cherubim’s shining wings.

Instead of tears for food

I would have tasted sweet manna.

I would have traded despair

for Aaron’s budding staff of hope

with healing leaves

from the tree of life.

Today light floods the dark room inside

as my Father rips the thick curtain

top to bottom.

* I referred to these Scripture passages in this poem:

Ex. 25 & 40, Lev. 16, Ps. 42:3, Mt. 27:51, Rev. 22:2

Drops of Jupiter, Part 4: A Broken Guy/Girl Friendship

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Our whole class stood in the hallway to view a critique

the first day of our last semester

and when you took your normal place beside me

I cut away to the far corner.

Confusion crossed your face

but you didn’t follow me.

When we chose seats

I deliberately picked a table

three rows away.

I pretended to ignore your shock.

My tears welled as you turned your back

because no explanation would satisfy

no matter how careful or kind.

When the twin towers fell

I longed to discuss it with you

at length, the way we talked

before, the way my husband

never enjoyed.

I missed my friend.

I watched you choose another girl

so quickly.

I cringed at your too-loud laughter

and your dramatic compliments

of her mediocre work.

We lived like miserable exes

still sharing living space

when they can’t afford to separate.

My projects languished while yours flourished.

For our fairy tale illustration

my Cinderella turned out cutesy.

Your Rapunzel was the beautiful Pantene model

in profile, her cascading waves

gently grasped by a strong male hand

in his gallant rescue.

Pent-up desire breathed from the pen-and-ink.

I withheld my compliment

not wishing to salt your wounds

but I yearned for your details:

How are you?

Where are you headed?

Can we part in peace?

The last time I saw you

we stood facing each other

in caps and gowns.

I made eye contact for the first time

in months, offering a small smile

to convey best wishes.

In your look disgust and spite stood

as your broken heart’s bodyguards.

Finally I turned away from your cold stare.

Drops of Jupiter, Part 3: A Broken Guy/Girl Friendship

Winter Sun and Shadow by Robert Vonnoh

Winter Sun and Shadow
by Robert Vonnoh

Your conversation that spring semester

warmed me like the bright sun

on winter afternoons.

Marriage blindsided me

with its onion peels

petty arguments

and unpaid bills.

Our talk became an oasis

in my long days and lonely weekends

while my new husband worked overtime

in his last semester.

May brought fresh hope:

a new apartment

a new job

a new summer session

before December graduation.

We listened to pop music

while we built clay boxes in summer ceramics.

Drops of Jupiter played incessantly:

you hated the line about fried chicken

but I found it playful.

I knew you too well.

I talked more in one day with you

than in a whole week

with my distracted husband.

Our three-hour conversation blocks

chapped me in secret

and my silent frustration escalated.

Dare I disturb our universe?

In the time and space constraint

of that summer session

the teacher fired my memory box lid

intact with the base.

I could view its lovely yellow interior

only if it shattered.

I chose to keep it sealed

rather than destroy

what I’d worked so hard to build.