Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Skating With the Blind Boy

Skating With the Blind Boy

His fingers search the ice, grazing like a camel’s lips on thorns.
Kazakhstan to Bryant Park- who could foretell it?

(His mother will be Skyped tonight and scream with joy!)
My student wants not only English, he wants

the hard, cold crunch of actual New York, he wants it all.
He wants more, more, more. I wobble, trembling,

at the wall. This isn’t what I signed up for.
I’m unskilled. I’ve failed. I give myself a zero as my grade.

What’s this?
His hand moves from messy ice up to my rental skate,
my clumsily bound foot, that I so fiercely hate.

He pushes up the toe and runs bare fingers cautiously along the blade.
Hypnotized, I cannot move. Now his hand explores the ugly plastic boot,
pats my shoelace, strokes the toe. When should I say No?

Then, satisfied, he stands upright- nineteen, a healthy, pink-cheeked boy.

“Today, I am so enjoy,” he says. “Thank you. I am so enjoy.”

The sighted skaters blur and circle us again. Infinity is this.

Barbara Riddle
December 25, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Spring, Young Man Crying, Greenwich Village

Outside the trendy bistro
phone jammed into his ear
the dark-haired busboy
stands oblivious
to me, to the
entire urban
night-time tide
flowing all

around him.

Tears drip down his
cheek and off his chin
his stiff white cuff
is smeared with
nosesnot, gleaming
like high-priced
oyster slime

as his soft Spanish words
fall into the eddy,
pebbles pulled out of sight.

His red-rimmed eyes reject
this swanky scene,
bright silk dresses floating by
on arms of thinnest summer wool.

"It's such a balmy night!"

His life that was so full is empty now
she doesn't love him anymore

he can't believe it
he can't believe it

Barbara Riddle
June 2011

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Emptying The House

Thick, chocolate-colored hair pulled
back into a childish mess,
she dives headfirst into the attic's
leather-smellng surf-
swims easily in Time while I stand,
nervous, on the shore.

Dreading this chore, I'm more afraid
than she of what we'll find.
Maybe old photographs have
yellowed teeth, old letters fangs.

A sudden heartfelt fury, and her
diary's ripped in half.
Unknowingly, she groans and turns
to seize a box of books.

That tricky skylight rattles.
The sun is fading fast.

We've traded house for gold,
for time, for glitzy chance-

our last?

Barbara Riddle
October 10, 1997

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Song for a Damaged Man

They celebrated Hitler's birthday, but not yours.
I guess your Czech parents were busier than mine.
It's not their fault.

But, look- your father's beer bought you that white horse,
for one whole week-
until the Germans were on the run again. Your thighs
remembered the bony spine
for months.

Meanwhile, I was busy being born
in New York City. For me, the war's that
photo of the nurse and sailor smooching
in Times Square;

the war to me is you shouting in your sleep.
It's not your fault.

And I,
I know only that our American horses pull
sleighs in snowy woods, and that our American poets
have promises to keep.

At least that's what I thought I knew
before I met you.

It's not my fault.

Barbara Riddle

April 1, 2005

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

East Houston Street, NYC

(Christmas Day/2003, after seeing The Triplets of Belleville)

Fueled by panettone, high on French cartoon grandma energy
we bend low into the wind and head home

to more cheese, bread and doggy kisses....
and find ourselves passing a wheelchair
bound by massive chains to a playground fence.

The mind reels. Gangland victm? S & M routine?
All over Manhattan are bicycles so chained, to fences, poles, tree guards-
but a wheelchair? Abandoned? With such a chain?
No, awaiting someone's return, for sure.

Will he/she walk to it? Resume a panhandling scam?
Cut the chains and pawn it?

By now we are past the vacant lots, passing Starbucks, The Gap,
the known civilized world collapsing on us like slush around a wet boot.
We drown in dreams of pending comfort. We inhale familar safety.
We reject the cold chain-linked world.

We hurry home
to more blueberry tea cake
to Charlie Rose

and those custom-shirted experts telling us how safe we are
how safe we think we are.

Barbara Riddle
Dec. 25, 2003