This Curved Road Toward Space

Photograph by Jose Padua
The last time I was charmed
simply by someone’s good looks
it was something like 1963.
I was in my mother’s sewing room,
playing on the floor next to
one woman or another
who was dressed in just
a slip or a bra and panties
as my mother took her measurements
or else helped her try on
a dress or gown she’d just made.
The beauty of my mother’s
home-made dresses
was lost on me,
as was the threading of sequins,
the hours of meticulous work
synchronizing the intricacies
of fine white lace,
and the raising and
lowering of hemlines
depending on style or occasion.
Too young to appreciate
the greatness of my mother’s
almost late baroque artistry,
it was never the dress for me,
but the look of the woman,
the slight curve that suddenly
turned over her shoulder
then down her back,
or the bare glimpse
of sometimes plump
sometimes flat belly
that filled me with a wonder
I didn’t quite understand.
This isn’t to say that
when I got older there
weren’t days, weeks,
maybe even years when
all I wanted to do was
look and keep looking
like a fawn wandering
through wide green fields
but if the woman in a bra
and panties didn’t have
a good story to tell
or something funny to say,
I’d eventually find my way
out of the whatever room
we were in and back
downstairs to a symphony
on the stereo or a slow
epic film on TV or at
the old theater downtown.
And in all these years
between lace and landscapes,
there was nothing more beautiful
than a woman telling me the long,
complicated story of her life
and art between the lifting
of glasses, her bare lips
dragging on a cigarette
or taking short sips of coffee
at that point in the day
when the fog begins to lift
and the dull autumn sky
begins to clear; and it’s
these stories that brought me
to where I am today,
breathing in this cool blue morning
that takes me like a curve
around the shoulder,
making its way up the mountains,
then slowly back,
to this long stretch of valley
with its river all swollen and ripe
with the telling of these tales,
and the sweet and futile
measuring of the earth
and everything in the universe
that’s profound.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

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