Red baseboards along the top of worn pale pine
A juxtuposition of chairs where Einstein
Used to grind a scoop full of coffee beans
Powdery and almost black. My mother once
Painted in that place, undistracted
By the clanging of streetcar bells
A girl no taller than my waist would stand on the steps,
Her brown hair framing curious dark eyes
While her friends played jacks
On the broken concrete of the sidewalk.
The proprietor would tell everybody
The story of the violin in the window
But he wouldn't take it where the sun
And the dry air wouldn't crack it
And the girl wouldn't talk when
My mother stopped and asked her her name.

Einstein died in '56
But the old man talked always
Of him. The children just played jacks.
They didn't understand.
They moved out of the man's way when he
came around and passed their game.
The young secondary school student came
From behind the counter
And mopped along the baseboards
My mother dipped her brush and stood
On her ladder watching.
The sun soon set shining
In a bright, warm cloudburst where two
Motorists were in a heated argument.
The girl I was talking with winced.
I laughed when she asked and told
Her that I had never been to Geneva
But that the red baseboards were real.
She laughed back and told me
That she was afraid of lighting candles.
Of what? Of candles?
She tilted her head, smiling very faintly,
Beautifully.... and leaned toward me
I kissed her.

another poem