April is National Poetry Month

Perfect Stranger

Lately my eyes have been catching spaces

Between trees on the street, weights

Racked at the gym, eyelets on a shoe,

Myself and other people. Music happens

In the space between notes, the pauses

Between words, making sense of sound.

 

As children we’re told to be wary, if not

Fearful of strangers, the unknown quantity,

Untrustworthy and so much taller than we are.

Without being told, we fear death, the ultimate

Stranger. But oddly, we rarely fear sleep

Or the strange gnomes in our brain who file

 

Away our experiences, play dreams on the screen

Of the mind. We embrace sleep, groggy, watch

The 5-4-3-2-1- as the film counts down.

Sometimes the dream explodes behind our eyes.

Sometimes it starts more like a whisper or

A breath of spring morning air. Sometimes

 

The strangers in our dreams alarm us,

Not by threatening but by offering us too much

Familiarity, like unasked-for candy. There is

A lesson here. Sometimes they stand apart,

Waiting for us to notice them. We wake,

Hopeful. The future, promising. Sometimes

 

By day we enter spaces like our dreams,

Peopled by both kinds of strangers. Then

The game is to identify which is which.

Take this woman, who saunters into a room

Of strangers milling around looking awkward,

Engages the most uncomfortable, makes her smile:

 

Not candy, but kindness. Then she moves on.

Faces turn in her direction like flowers

Following the movement of the sun, gathering

Warmth and light. Another time when I see her,

I offer her a purple flower. She tucks it

Behind her ear and turns away. The space

 

Between us fills with other strangers. This

Morning on the subway, in between every two

Strangers is another stranger, and all of them

Looking bored, tired or angry. I find myself

Smiling for no reason, passing the light along.

Now the spaces in my dreams are full of flowers.

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