John and Mary
Her lunchtime walks in Newbury Park
did not go unnoticed by the collegiate-clad young man
who watched her from his studio apartment,
sipping a chai latte on his balcony,
typing his thesis on his cell.
Every day, he saw the woman of his dreams
meeting the man of any woman’s dreams,
sharing a sandwich (never submarine)
but the diagonal kind made of shelf-stable bread and always served cold–
the stuff brown-bagged lunches were made of.
The man’s coffee was always hot,
no matter the season,
their wedding bands shining–
butter yellow in the spring,
starburst yellow in the summer,
pallid yellow in the fall.
Were they birds or bears,
going further south
or hibernating for the winter?
one frosty night that turned his cheeks cherub,
he saw the man and woman
reading side by side on a bench
in the public library–
He would learn that they had nowhere else to go,
for they could be there and not have to buy anything.
Then came the day that he no longer saw them
where kids used outside voices and books were free for a limited time,
where squirrels frolicked,
making arcs on the sidewalk,
where tables were set up with jigsaw puzzles
for the dodgy old men whose wives were dead or troublesome,
where the magenta buds of the crepe myrtles
hovered like feathers in the heat shimmer,
and where educated young mothers corralled their toddlers during storytime.
When he returned to college that last semester,
he saw the man and woman not as students
but as teachers–
teaching about the ideas and ideals
that had gotten them through
those long months of joblessness
that sometimes begat hopelessness
in a society that undervalued those
who wanted to do nothing more than teach.