the box (i cannot let go)
the old woman was from malaysia, i thought before she was old hair parted as a horizon line spilling waves of almost glowing white softly over shriveled ears.
there was a small brown box in her lap clutched by the thin purple veins in her hands carved, and delicate
its beautiful I tell her from across the aisle looking at the box, with what I hope are smiling eyes her own eyes shine black, like polished onyx from my husband she says a voice like clouded crystal against crystal milky and melodic a gift
i watch her study my hands long and thin, a remnant of pianistic aspirations the newspaper is balanced on my knees print another remnant print, because i like holding an idea between my palms the way inked words stain my skin my fingers, a poetry i hope the woman notices the silver band of my ring partly covers the stamped word obsession her wrinkled smile is knowing
are you going to meet him now? i ask and i trace my finger around the endless loop of silver
but the cart rolls between us wheels thumping over uneven carpet i watch as she buys a bag of salted chip balancing it on top of her wooden box she places each thin crisp onto her tongue like a petal more as a ritual, like it will sink fully formed into her body like a scale
the trains noses forward, persistent rectangular bars of sunlight sliding across the empty seats to the beat of the rhythmic clatter of the wheels or the engine the woman curves her body around the box breathing into it a heart outside her body, perhaps in a way that makes me wonder why she loves it so fiercely and rolls of green blur beyond the window clouds smudging the corners like damp sponges natural, not beautiful and the metal walls hum to themselves, shyly I love him very much she says after a long time and she looks at the box and I look at the box and I realize what she means.
when the train rolls to the next station squealing, unamused, the woman stands slowly balancing the box on the seat for just a second so she can pull on her coat and then pressing it once again against her chest
and the doors open steaming the air outside like an open mouth and she turns back to shine her eyes, black at me, and turns
and then it happens in a moment like everything does the box thrown forward as her delicate feet spring back and I swear for a moment it hovers there kissing the tips of her wrinkled finger I watch through the window of the expectant train through the tinted glass like a movie screen
the ash is suspended cupped like the seeds of a dandelion in an invisible palm and the women’s face tilts towards the sky but there is not sky, just the endless cement ceiling, dripping drips of colorless paint and the flakes begin to float down gently like cherry blossom flowers thin as paper and the woman’s eyes strain upwards, ripe and full against the limpness of her skin as she strains against her body, strains so her soul can expand, encompass the station, swallow it, use the unharnessed weight of her yearning and compress it into a small brown box so that she can hold it tightly on her lap
but the ashes scatter into the concrete corners like broken drunks, bluebirds winging through the air and disappearing against the sharp white of sun Icarus, like cherry blossoms like pages ripped up from a holy book, flying like inked drawings etched against the sky fading, fading and a single flake alights of her soft hair baptising her gray on white
and as she she looks up in wonder, it slides gently down onto the incomprehensible solidity of the platform,
gray on gray
I danced naked in the rain
I peeled damp cotton and jean from plastic skin
licked the cliche from cupped palms like holy wine
I breathed the reborn scent of sodden leaves, imagine: the dampness flowing back along their veins, until they swell and ripen in your hand
I tilted my head up to the clouds - funny, how a sky becomes the heavens -
and watched the endless birth of pelting rain a flooded motherhood, alone
and sleepy clovers, lifted their crowned heads nudging into crooks between my toes
i think i stopped to wonder why it was nothing like when we danced before
but my feet were liquid, slipped in shapeless whorls arms reaching to what I never meant to touch
and the mineness of my body was a warm-wet thrill and my nakedness was for no one but the sky
and a laugh of stomach pain burst up my throat an ache poured out, wave and wave again
and i belched a scream of silence to the sky
it answered, only more steaming rain
and in that moment, nothing left to say after all - i wanted nothing of
I felt the dirt and rawness rub me pure - my exposed body -
and I danced naked in the rain.
About the Author: Maya Renaud-Levine is a junior at Beacon High School, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She has a passion for podcasts, politics, singing and playing piano, and will never turn down a good crime novel. Her poetry is published or forthcoming in The WEIGHT Journal, Idle Ink, Eunoia Review, The Blue Marble Review and TRUANT LIT, and she is a national winner of the American High School Poets Just Poetry!!! National Poetry Quarterly.