POeT SHOT #3 – Blog Post by Ray Greenblatt
SHOPPING FOR JEWELS ON SOUTH STREET by Bill Van Buskirk
For one of the last times
The sun beat down with all its might,
Drying streets gave up
The vapory, sweet ghosts
Of last night's rain;
And anything, anything
At all that could, gave back that light--
Windshields, trolley tracks, and
Lucky pennies waiting on the sidewalk.
So, in the middle of her final sickness--
A reprieve. A sun miraculous, tropical and lush
Shone for them in the middle of November, and
They went shopping on South Street.
The cancer left her gawky and gaunt,
Like a girl of thirteen years who grew too fast.
With restess eyes she searched through
Grimy windows for a reflection, for an angle
Where still she might be shown to some advantage.
Jewels were what she wanted, though;
Only they would do--Chiseled, lovely things
That would reflect the light of the next century,
That would endure to greet a thousand future suns.
Almost out of time now, she hurried along
As best she could. Limping, her body losing
Energy in the waning afternoon, she dragged him
From place to place; but he didn't get it.
Those old irritations, Saturday afternoons
Of waiting in the mail, settled over him.
And then she stopped. She vacillated
In the doorway of a tiny shop that sold
Only earrings. He could hardly bear it.
He could hardly bear this urgency for trinkets,
This urgency that drained her, that
Consumed even this shell of who she was.
But he gritted his teeth and fought for patience,
He remembered to breathe and stayed right with her.
He teetered with her in and out; it was a kind of dance
They did on the threshold of that shop.
He searched for her there, in the wreckage
Of who she was; and what he found
Was a startling kind of question rising up.
Feverish it hung there
Suspended in the brimming eyes.
And when at last he found her,
It burst inside him like a bomb.
"So is this it then?
Is this too much to spend upon a decaying shell?
Am I too far gone to decorate? Even for these?
Am I forgotten like a month-old-Christmas-tree
Waiting around to be burnt?"
So there it was, all of it,
The dying child's question
Hanging wordless in the air.
Terrifying, rounded and perfect in its way,
Turning in a chilly breeze, glittering
From one angle, then another,
Like a hundred earrings blinking in the sun.
This is a haunting poem. It is immediately seeded in the first paragraph with telltale words: "last-ghost-anything-final-reprieve-miraculous." The husband is worn out with supporting his wife. She is worn out from her illness but wants something significant before life ends. The power builds throughout the poem and is overwhelming by the close. No matter what it takes, we must love each other right up until the end.
- Ray Greenblatt