Rhina P. Espaillat



                        Sacrament


Touch any stranger, and the face turned smiling
toward you will be familiar, will be your father
miraculously clear of the dust he sleeps in,
your mother, stylish again; spot any driver
tapping the wheel at a light, and it will be
your son's quick profile flicking into traffic.

But no, not really: behind those mock encounters
lie real departures, past or to come. Some
gesture invites you, but then the eyes are wrong,
off-colored, angled oddly, so memory stumbles,
as you may stumble at dawn down a hallway,
fumble at a knob, wonder what place this is,

What became of the stairway that used to rise here.
And then a face floats toward you over a trickle
of water, where you wash, as if you were meeting
at a shallow river, as if you had come to be given
the name you will need by morning, as if
you were summoned home each day to this touch.


Rhina P. Espaillat, Where Horizons Go, New Odyssey Press,
1998.