VISITING ELSA WHITT
The twine thin woman reels calmly
about, arranging her lifelike wares
on a carpet of bonded burlap bags.
These are not children’s toys.
The tallest, about five-foot-five
under a wounded tartan parasol.
A calligraphic sign on a stand
at her feet is like one marking
a garden plot, names her Elsa Whitt.
She dons clothes of another time,
brown bonnet, shawl, bell-shaped gown.
Cheeks puffed and blushed she’s locked
in place pushing a wicker pram with one
square wheel and Elsa looks so
damned genuine, let her find
a door ajar and she will lopsidedly
brave the damaged cobblestones.
The baby, wearing a moth-hurt bib
is a pond reflection of her mom.
A notice across her plaid blanket
Says she won’t wet, whine or cry.
Is this a mausoleum vault, pyramid
or merely a haunted space?
A breathing corn-eyed cat atop
a china case filled with doll heads,
rags and limbs strikes a Cairo pose.
Is this sparse proprietor
chopping a finger at two harlequins sitting
cross-legged on a settee, a ventriloquist
a puppeteer or just an addled hobbyist?
A musty tulip of silk is in the hand of the chubbier
delinquent while the other’s head tilts
heavily as if just slapped.
A music box plays a handful of notes
but not enough to liven or endear.
With the scratch of a match, a scented
candle flickers then leaps
at a bride and groom under glass.
A yellowed newspaper on the floor
tells of a formal wear shop arson,
a proud manikin with singed tails survived.
Instead of asking: “May I help you?”
The owner says, “You may help me.”
Offering a broom that clears
browsers out the door like straw
her free arm pivots robotically
to halt Elsa’s sneaky pram.
Thomas Michael McDade is retired computer programmer living in Fredericksburg, VA with his wife. He is a graduate of Fairfield University. McDade served two tours of duty in the U.S. Navy. He has recently had fiction published Gadfly Magazine and poetry in Ink, Sweat & Tears.
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