Ode to the Up and Coming ~ Robin Carstensen


Love you chimes the young woman

who sports a sleek red scarf, steps

into the elevator, snaps her cell phone

shut, flips her shiny hair back,

pops the metallic green cover open again.

Meanwhile, the scent of magnolia and I huddle

near the aged white buttons blinking

yellow one by one, my eyes down

like a guest trying not to eavesdrop.

I’m forced to hear, though, the loud chat

followed by another voice, urging me

to “snatch the damned scarf and squeeze

youth around its raw, entitled neck.” I would

empathize were Love feeling peeved at its name

appropriated into pulp and slung around

in fear like needy children calling “mommy”

all day long. But another voice protests,

“Actually, Love would say, ‘Look, it’s like this:

Love you wants to wash the dirty dishes

and put them up, wear clean undies

before going out, brush one’s teeth, floss,

put the right music on in case either one

or the other falls, like from a tall building

in the middle of business, followed by flames.’”

I’m pondering whose melody could last me

through the ages when the scent of magnolia

and I are interrupted by love you, too again,

and the cell phone mouthpiece clamping shut.

“Sweetheart,” I’d like to say, “we’ve both lost

out. Isn’t it maddening how we might have been

friends for one ephemeral flash? Caught each other

off guard, enhanced one another’s dance?”

On the other hand, for the life of me I can’t stay

annoyed with the up and coming young being

in the universe in the form of a woman

waving her arms to some other body loving

her, more or less, across the telephonic sea,

which is safer than the unfamiliar three feet

between us and our bodies pulsing so much light

and energy we can barely take it.  I feel

a quickened silence in the slowing-down ascent,

the subtle rattle as we reach the edge where each one

of us waits to get on or off, mumbling to ourselves

beneath our breath and body dust and scent

in the air exchanging stories, mingling

as we pass each other nameless, sometimes touching.