Miss Alice wore cardigans trimmed in lace,
and plain, brown skirts that draped
her manly shoes, her bunned hair
a perfect circle at the base
of a long, thin neck. Her head swiveled
like a ball on a stick, her horn-rimmed eyes
piercing every cranny of the dusty shelves,
the world she ruled in whispers.
We children plagued her rainy days
and any time the frozen wind blew.
The young men, their chins covered
with fuzzy bristles, made Miss Alice’s ears,
turnips on each side of her round head,
blotch red, their speaking glances
at the girls in bright dresses the prelude
to the secret contact in dark corners
that made the older woman’s eyes bulge
the few times Miss Alice left her desk
to pounce on them.
That desk, with its mounds of books,
piles of history and science and truths
sweated out like blood,
rose around Miss Alice like a fort,
like the walls around her heart,
her hidden organ, tucked inside the drawer
with all her dog-eared romances
and locked away.
Her thin nose and sharp eyes were always there,
as we worked our way through Judy Blume,
grew into Hemingway and books almost banned,
brought our own children to haunt
her disciplined aisles, watching them
gawk at her, eyes wide, silenced
by the swivel of her now grey head.
Her children, bound and musty,
could not keep her warm nights,
tucked in her flannel gown, a hidden treasure
perched on her belly, her only love story
the printed pages blurring just beyond
her thick, round lenses.
April 11, 2013