Afternoons, I would stand at my tiny window,
peering out at our neighbor Sandra as she stretched
languorously on her chaise lounge at the top of the driveway.
Watching the parade of deliverymen approach and fall
under her spell, I would breathe quickly and leave little o's
steaming up the window pane.
Sandra confided in my mother that her husband
had been kidnapped by the CIA—
"Bumped off by our own," she would whisper
in the husky tones of the conspiracy theorist.
Sandra wore gauzy blouses and strappy high heels
and painted her nails blood red.
At night, I could hear music from her apartment
and the clinking of glasses.
When I was given a cat for my birthday,
one of the first names I gave her was Sandra.
I draped scarves over both our shoulders
and led her around on a gold braided leash.
One Sunday, Sandra invited me up the steep back steps
into her dark livingroom.
She gave me a glass of gingerale with ice
and brought out a music box covered in green silk
with a tiny ballerina spinning slowly inside.
She held the music box out to me, humming
to the tinkling music. When I took the box,
Sandra stayed close beside me, and I thought
she thought I might drop it, until I saw her
blue-lidded eyes were closed and fluttering.
When the ballerina stopped spinning
and the room was quiet again, I was sure
Sandra would offer me the music box,
but she didn't. Back at home, I put on a tutu
and a pair of blue high heels from my mother's closet
and twirled around and around
until I was too dizzy to stand.
Poems by Lisa Sitkin:
TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets