Do you like candy, dearie? by Jeanne Marie Beaumont

 

And what about the question mark that follows
you along the city streets, across gum-spotted
sidewalks, over puddled gutters, daily shadow,
nightly stalker, an unwavering wavering,
cobra riled up—now a levitating specter, unsummoned
ghost with a dowager’s hump and monk’s cowl,
then the alliumatic steam rising off a cook pot,
curl from a film noir cigarette, or spry genie rubbed
out of the period lamp who’s eager to grant
wishes if only you’d spin round, but you don’t,
you won’t look—it’s too crooked to be trusted,
perhaps some gust of fact or declaration will blow
its top away, leave just the certifying point, but
till then you dash for blocks, run against lights, make
quick turns where crowds thicken, wondering
if you’ve shaken it at last, the way it sidles up,
sinuous unicyclist atop a nearly silent wheel—shhh shhh
bending close by your ear to pose the question
you’re most loath to hear, and so you don’t
listen, you’ll never look, sensing its propensity to hover
and to stick, to stir up uncertainty, pry open every box,
all the while perfecting its impersonation of a hook.

 

JEANNE MARIE BEAUMONT is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Letters from Limbo (2016) and Burning of the Three Fires (2010). She teaches poetry in the Stonecoast MFA Program of the University of Southern Maine and at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan.