For A Traveler, by Jessica Greenbaum

I only have a moment so let me tell you the shortest story,
about arriving at a long loved place, the house of friends in Maine,
their lawn of wildflowers, their grandfather clock and candid
portraits, their gabled attic rooms, and woodstove in the kitchen,
all accessories of the genuine summer years before, when I was
their son’s girlfriend and tied an apron behind my neck, beneath
my braids, and took from their garden the harvest for a dinner
I would make alone and serve at their big table with the gladness
of the found, and loved. The eggplant shone like polished wood,
the tomatoes smelled like their furred collars, the dozen zucchini
lined up on the counter like placid troops with the onions, their
minions, and I even remember the garlic, each clove from its airmail
envelope brought to the cutting board, ready for my instruction.
And in this very slight story, a decade later, I came by myself,
having been dropped by the airport cab, and waited for the family
to arrive home from work. I walked into the lawn, waist-high
in the swaying, purple lupines, the subject of June’s afternoon light
as I had never been addressed—a displaced young woman with
cropped hair, no place to which I wished to return, and no one
to gather me in his arms. That day the lupines received me,
and I was in love with them, because they were all I had left,
and in that same manner I have loved much of the world since then,
and who is to say there is more of a reason, or more to love?

On The Bus Someday, by Jessica Greenbaum

Of that string of memories about our lost friendship I remember
being invited places as a pair, like a comedy team; and after
one party, our self-parody of our own stammering
speechlessness when introduced to Henrik, the Swedish god
auto mechanic; our twin, garish, purple-flowered swimsuits
from Kmart, outlining, around Texas, our sameness
and differences; our dual waitressing shifts across town,
and the long phone calls that followed with their emphatic
reiteration of every stingy six-top ordering candy-flavored
alcoholic drinks; the after-work visit where we brayed,
stomped, then blinked stupidly (while the needle hit
the LP’s end) at the empty fifth of gin left on the coffee table,
prompting a dim: Uh oh; your imitation of your mother’s
habitual and by-the-way inexplicable confession about you
to shoe salesmen: She has a funny foot; the apartments,
the Olivettis, the boyfriends, all the thoughts exchanged
unedited like an experiment of the big, walk-in consciousness,
which we might have assumed the verbal equivalent
of sex for friends, and whatever closeness meant, we wanted
as much as we could have, it was our post-graduate work
in The Humanities. Even now, I can’t resist striking up
a conversation while standing on line, any line, or introducing
myself enthusiastically to whomever I am introduced,
but the truth is I am not looking for new friends at this point;
I am trying to locate the lost ones, the ones who left
through the hole of an argument decades ago,
a time more panicked and carefree than any other, except maybe
the early years of motherhood, which I missed sharing
with you on playground benches. But surely I will see you
on the bus someday, and your greeting will package
our jokes, advice, tears, book talk, our years of reliance.
And so I will expect you will tell me how much I have
misunderstood and wrongly assumed in these descriptions,
because I never expect those people who have mattered
to remain completely gone, even through death, or rebuke.
And of course I have to remember what parted us,
that I found faults with your other friends, that I spoke
as critically and crassly about them as I did about my own person,
and to this day I have to be careful of that trait, my junkyard
dog of expression, safe only with me on a too-long leash. Here,
again, telling you everything with no reason but for
memory’s insistence that I string an apology from what I see.