Two Poems

At Gorham and Blount Streets

The man who wears the brown beret
has slumped to the bench by the curb.
Today his eyes are as blank as the surface of Metis,
the smallest of Jupiter's moons that my telescope
captures. The man is here most mornings;

we board the bus together. He'll occasionally sigh
or fidget. Maybe he'll stretch, or crack his knuckles.
Mainly he stares, his cheeks ruddy, his neck flushed,
his forehead almost rutted. I picture striated, reddish Io,
another of Jupiter's luminous moons.

It must have been a month ago, he turned to me
and mentioned the icy weather. I nodded
and we talked for that one minute. The cold wasn't unusual;
our winters are always cruel. But he needed to speak.
It was as if Ganymede—Jupiter's crystalline moon—

had broken its silence. Since then, I've watched him shrink,
become his own shadow, the way Callisto—the farthest
of Jupiter's moons—dwindles, no matter the strength
of my lens. Still, every planetary body hides
a dark side. The man who wears the brown beret begins

to sob, as if the moons of Jupiter could weep in unison.


Come To Light

 "I saw the angel in the marble
 and carved until I set him free." —Michelangelo.

The sun achieves precisely the proper angle
to highlight this polished, spotless toilet. Placed upon
the sidewalk apron, severed from sewers and feces,
the object's porcelain body defies such words
as dazzle, pure, gleam, alabaster. It evokes
the pearl on the ear of the girl in Vermeer's
portrait. Both are of a whiteness no one has defined,

a whiteness that hijacks the eye to the border
of blindness. Passers-by ignore the cluster of daisies,
the newly painted lanes on the road. Instead, they stare
at the toilet. People examine the seemingly casual
glance of Vermeer's model. Then they return to the pearl,
as they never would a piece of chalk; a bowl of milk;
or fresh snow on porch stairs. A spirit emerges.

—Richard Merelman, Madison, WI