Long corridors with pale yellow walls, down which dry leaves come hurtling by.
Desks with chalk marks, blackboards now greyish white.
The faint sounds of laughter and conversation.
Snatches of Shakespeare. Discussions on Dickinson.
Just behind walls, faces that could have mattered to me.
In another life, another time.
If I had chosen to push open these gates.
Instead, I have chased yellow butterflies across three states.
I have eaten creamy pasta and touched a napkin to my lips.
Past glass-fronted cafes, I have walked,
surreptitiously checking my reflection and adjusting my stole.
I have spent hours in cold storage, surrounded by others in similar boxes.
All of us being conveyed at a funereal pace to larger, colder storage boxes.
We don’t age. We don’t wrinkle. We don’t feel the wind in our hair.
We don’t speak our native tongues. The words live and die inside our throats.
Sometimes, on evenings such as these, I look through the glassed-up windows
(Oh, why is there so much glass? Glass, glass everywhere.
Showing you what you are missing. But offering no reprieve.)
I see, unseeing, the thousands of twinkling lights.
The dark, shadowy outlines of building tops.
(No canopies here, swaying in the breeze).
I smell the smell of rain on the earth.
I close my eyes and bite into a banana chip.
If I keep them shut, I tell myself, I can go anywhere.
Pretend worlds of green and brown spring forth around me.
Now I am walking down corridors paved by slanting rays of sun.
My hands drag across the wall, the peeling paint rough under my palm.
I slip into a room, where they are talking.
Five men and women on two shaky benches.
I slip in, unseen, unheard.
An engineer’s ghost in a literature class.
Soaking up greedily the words and their sounds.
Here, no bells will ring. No peon will come in, shuffling papers.
I can stay for as long as I like.
Perhaps even, forever.