Swirls of rose and leaf wings fill the smile between the girl’s shirt and jeans
as she bends to scoop the fallen napkin from the wind-tossed grass.
Her black eyeliner is suspect, this tidier of public spaces in low-rise denim and textured hair.
She crumples the paper, spitting into the folds, scrubbing –
in the eternal gesture of motherhood –
at the jam-blotched face in the stroller before her. Her waist rolls as she bends, cresting between
shirt and jeans.
The spiky black legs of letters crawl across the backs of his knuckles
as he writes the check.
Images ripple across his biceps and down to his wrists as he lifts the bags, turning out onto the sidewalk.
In the white-hot furnace of a city in summer, a young mother shoves her stroller across the street, barely checking for traffic, to put distance between her jam-cheeked baby and the dark man.
He sets the bag next to a lamp post, stopping to tighten the boot laces at his ankles. A blonde woman passes, averting her eyes from the shaven head and script that loops up from his collar.
The collar of her blazer rubs against the ends of her bob as she fumbles for the keys. A man on the street corner picks up his bags, walking away without a second glance as she climbs into her minivan.
Yellow sun catches the crow’s feet as she shifts the rear-view mirror, checking her lipstick.
Time travels in small folds across the neck above the seatbelt.
The woman sips her latte, flipping her turn-signal, as she pulls into the elementary school pick-up line.
Public radio tells of another horror in a far off land while children burst from the buildings in a frenzied spring of freedom.
The young mother lays her son in his crib, brushing back a sweaty curl. She strips off her top as she heads down the hall, a butterfly emerging from the dimpled space at the top of her ass.
As the shower laces across her skin, her brain reviews her thesis and data. She meets with her professor tomorrow.
One block away, the skinhead opens a yellow door and unpacks his bag, putting paints and oil on a corner shelf.
The letters on his fingers sing of a time forgotten as they pull the brush across the canvas, painting the boy building Lego cities on the kitchen floor.
The professor shrugs off her jacket as the sun pushes through the minivan window. As she turns to check her child’s seatbelt, a passing parent catches the red and gold ink rising across her back from under the lace camisole.
She has a tattoo?
The clerk pauses as a cover in the new shipment catches her eye. She glances at the back, and puts the book on the shelf.
Can’t judge a book by its cover.
The tribal design that fills the book-jacket says nothing of the words beneath:
Loss, poverty, glory, summer, rhythm, pain, release, love, blood, lust, hunger, exhaustion
The picture says nothing, but when the words are known, it tells the whole story.