The Consultant for the Mayor

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

More Poems by Robert VanderMolen