Poems for Paula, 1995

Click here to learn more about this book and how to purchase it.

The Breathing Space

I saw my dear one on the street
walking home with clothes in her arms—
clothes from the cleaners. She rippled along
past where the school was being built

on the next block. I called out to her,
shouting "Paula!" from my window:
shouted twice, three times. A black
construction worker grinned at me

from the unfinished rooftop. Paula
halted, turned and glanced about—
then, as I called her name once more,
looked up and smiled and cried "I'm coming!"

Earlier that sharp Autumn day
we had phoned the small-town hospital
where an old brave friend lay slowly dying:
her voice slipped ghostlike down the wires . . .

It all gives way to death in the end—
this shifting show of shapes that pass:
that much comes clear as time moves on
and pains outmatch the early joy.

It all gives way in dreams that fade—
and what remains? a whiff, a trace,
some pale residuum of a life
changed now to dust and memory?

That's why I'm grateful for those times
when time itself comes to a stop
on some quite ordinary day,
comes to a stop for a random moment

in which the self gains breathing space
to find itself outside of time—
as I've been found, who still hold fast
that pause made radiant by her smile.