Maya Renaud-Levine

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 

waterlogged womanhood

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.