Old woman, forgive me for watching you
from this high hotel window facing north
(through historic palms growing
straight up out of concrete--
it takes a long time to grow that tall) I see
early mornings you come out to hang up the wash,
white and pink sheets, red shirts, dark socks,
a little girl's dress...I notice you limp a little,
and I imagine the joints are large, as your fingers
work with old weathered wood of clothes pins.
I see your son come out each morning too,
he waters the corn growing at the back of the yard,
a little green garden, secret behind high brick walls...
the corn has sprung out tassels this week.
I take my briefcase and hit the road
on behalf of the State Board of Education,
and come back to the window late in the day.
Sun and wind slant into the palms
and on to the green plants in your kitchen window,
birds settle in for the night, a whole chittering colony,
invisible under the laurel leaves...
Your son comes out to check his corn and feed his dog
beside a child's red wagon...the washing is gone now,
gone on to whoever needs fresh clothes for tomorrow.
I look (do you feel my intrusion?) as I pick up my pen
to write, and I wonder which among us has found wisdom.
--Barbara Smith Stoff