aging woman crosses the street

by Christopher Raley


It startled me. I can tell you that much.

Quiet street ends at busy one–four lanes.

I turn right onto it. Van at left

turns right off of it.

Like the audience of a badly timed stunt,

we stop and we stare though desperately

we want to move.


Bright green eye-shadow, demonstrative and fake

lashes, lips the color of someone’s wound,

(but a wound from which he long ago died),

these are paints of mockery on a face

age has entrenched for the last ugly battle

with overpaid confidence in beauty.


What appears hesitation is in fact

equilibrium fighting for balance

with the sway of stiff hips and

swing of black leather purse.

What little of her I see behind her mask

is the duck taped smile of someone’s

school girl fling played over

and over and over in decades’ sprawl

of seeking and finding attention.


I laugh . . . as she passes before my truck

and then before his van.  But laughter dies

when I see him watching her.

He is revolted the way users

look, rate, and are revolted.


I attend again the four lanes before me.

For once all the little rats in the race

serve me well.  I turn into their fear,

merge with their anxiety,

and I hide my shame between bumpers.

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