The Red Lamp

Twice a week I jog past a green house where an old artist lives, and if my loop back
coincides with dusk, I’ll see the lamp with the red shade radiant in one corner
of the front room where, through the naked window, I know she’s looking down
at the pages in her lap, as I will by the light of my likewise florid lamp
someday when I’m old enough to prune the trees in the yard till it looks as wild
and neat as this bright cottage of which I always dreamed. The gleam raises
my eyes from that favorite tome before I plod on past, up the long hill that looks
so falsely flat, and reach the relief of downslope to my home street. Pausing first
to tuck four saucer-large blooms into my hand, I speed through the gathering gloom,
a beam of headlights washing sudden across my face, and the sudden curt thought, too,
of who is this woman hugging the muddy shoulder of a back road with a clutch
of posies in her grip, and the flare of something like rage: at the presumption
of these petals, the earliness of the season this year – such cheek – the looks folks shot
at me all fall, on account of that sticker on my bumper, at red lights, which this one is –
exhaust turning ruddy as it gathers in a cloud behind me, then a green light and I’ll turn:
right, right turn, always right, the lights in the waiting house aglow beyond the now
dark yard, the chair ready for the one I’ll be when I get there, the tale I’ll read.

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