In the Shadow of the Bell Tower
After Ralph Waldo Emerson
I seek refuge from the ferocious sun,
this unpredictable, unbreakable humidity,
on a cool stone bench with engraved words
to trace with fingertips.
To fill the hour…
You walk by with sweat on your cheeks.
I nod to the space next to me. You sit
and slide your skirt up to your knees,
flapping it like a fan. Not sweat, tears.
Your eyes do not meet mine.
We are strangers who step outside,
a downtown lunch break into shade.
Soon the bells toll their four quarters
and the upright twelve bells and though
I do not know your name, I see how
our feet tap the hour together. You
accept a tissue I offer. An anonymous
hot city of I for a brief twelve-count
…that is happiness.