Tell Me What You See
He is in that odd age, neither old nor young,
just enough wrinkles to know he has seen pain.
Skin worn by decades of outside work.
Eyes still somehow shining.
He sits at your table. A stranger with his coffee.
Helping himself to the chair across from you.
“Tell me.” he says “What you have seen.”
What an odd question, and I say so.
“I see things.” he tells me.
And I wonder at the shining in his eyes,
wondering – joy or madness?
The line after all can be thin.
“Yes it is.” He says, and sips his coffee.
“All the lines are thin. Easily broken.
Easily crossed. Do it enough
and you might not know what side you are on.”
I am disturbed. I do not mind telling you.
He sees into my mind somehow, this stranger.
I would have rather he stayed across the room,
stayed a stranger at the counter,
but he is here and I am disturbed. Too much
truth for this early in the morning.
I have never fit. Never been fish or fowl.
Never been as pure or evil as I would like,
never quite sure what thoughts would rise,
dark and depressed or a seer of light.
“Struggle.” I say. “I have seen struggle.”
“Pain. Brokeness.” He nods, as if he knew.
“Restoration.” I say.
“So much restoration.”
“The work of it.” he echoes.
“The work of it, A world torn between the tearing down
and the slower work of restoration.” I sigh.
“It’s never done.”
“I thought so.” he says and lifts his cup in a toast.
And leaves. His grey ponytail down his back
as he saunters out the door and I am left thinking
how mirrors come in all shapes.
About this poem
Thirteen years here in Vermont. Most mornings in one diner or another. People stop by my table. We talk. You never know where the talk will go. Generally, I learn more than they do.
Be kind. Restoration is hard work, and more of us are in the midst of it than we know.
That’s what I see.
PS: The picture was taken at Mass MoCA.