The Consultant for the Mayor

By Robert VanderMolen Robert VanderMolen
You can never tell
By the looks of a frog
How high it can leap,
Said her Auntie Ott.
Haley's hair flips up and down
As she moves in her hard shoes,
Her leather coat for winter
Is lengthy and sways, some stains
Mottling the bottom—

Elegant windows in decline
That at one time
One could climb through,
French imitation
Nailed shut for decades. In shadow
Pigeons peck in dirty snow
Massed against the closest wall.
What her hair will look like someday,
She surmises. But otherwise
Isn't troubled by the future.
Don't walk like a duck,
Men don't like it, said Auntie Ott.
Not necessarily, responded her grandmother,
As she brushed a crumb onto a saucer—
Playing cards, stories of earlier poverty.
As a girl she pretended
To be as worried as they
Whether Bobby would be drafted
And killed in the war.
Maybe she's important in art
Or decoration, supposes the student
Adjusting his pack—
As the light changes, he steps out
But she banks around the corner
Behind him, purseless, gloveless,
Passing a restaurant, a coin store,
A key shop—owners staring over the street
Wishing they were younger.
Or lived in an earlier time.
Which is partly the fault
Of late winter. Clittering ice
In trees of Veteran's Park. . .
Lightly swinging her arms now,
Heading uphill, growing distant,
Like a figure studied
In Auntie Ott's Utrillo print—
Stick-like, scarecrow-like—
To her right, a converted house
Looking vaguely like a shrunken
Monticello. . . Cream-colored barriers
Of plowed snow as sun sprays
More volume. . . A moment of deception

There's not much that can be done,
Said the city, when the oaks
Were removed for curb repair.
The dome fell off the theatre.
A policeman peering east, frozen.
Just as the museum is shuttered
Next to the blank bowling alley
(which is our other perspective).
Haley has never felt trapped,
Though the possibilities, occasionally,
Have skirted about like sparrows.
A jet crosses the sky.
Followed by its vibration.
What she found sustaining
She learned in college.
Where she goes is no one's business
Neither is she worshipped
And adored—Auntie Ott
Would be dismayed.
Though not entirely

Source: Poetry (June 2008).


This poem originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2008
 Robert  VanderMolen


Robert VanderMolen lives and works in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His latest collection of poems is Water (Michigan State University Press, 2008).

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Coming of Age, Relationships, Family & Ancestors

Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.