by Frank Thomas Smith
Taking my son to the Collegium Musicum
Is good for his musical future, no doubt;
for me it has advantages, too.
The hour and forty minutes spent
waiting at the outdoor cafe
give me a chance to think and watch.
The black bow-tied vested waiter
brings my cafecito without
having to ask -- and sweet cookies,
the unkempt park across the street,
the flower-printed tablecloths,
sunglasses in winter, women in jeans,
ancient trains rattling by,
the kiosko "Revistas - Diarios",
men smoking, uninhibited here.
I light my pipe, puff blissfully,
my thoughts contain the past, no
avoiding that, the future less,
suppressed; what's uppermost is now.
If life is all and this is happiness,
how on earth can death be less?
If life is all, then this is all
and death is all, it follows.
Such thoughts were once reserved
for the philosopher's dreary den,
here they stoop to invitations
from cafe idlers, now and then.
The First Circle
A young woman passes my table,
pretty thing with long dark hair
cut abruptly down her back,
shoulder-bag, jeans, enigmatic smile.
Twenty years ago she sucked
her mother's teat if she was lucky.
Fifty years from now she'll ask
why she did what she did
and wonder what's next on life's agenda.
She'll even know it'll be over soon
(she knows now but it's buried down
in consuming self-conscious youth)
and may decide not to think,
or if she does, return to church.
Maybe centuries on from now
She'll sit pensive at a cafe table,
see me passing by and wonder
who I am and we'll close a circle,
one of three.
The Second Circle
A boy waits for the waiter to go
and darts through the twilight traffic,
black dilated eyes fix
each patron, bare arm extends
a stubby nail-bitten hand.
The tanned man sees only the hand,
doesn't look up from his paper, shakes
his leonine head: no, no.
Two ladies so busy are sure to ignore
the hand, the eyes, the begging boy.
He comes to me; I've heard too
that such as he are exploited by
their masters and giving makes it worse.
I don't know, it may be true,
but what is truth in ignorance?
I give him some pesos anyway
in case some day the roles are reversed
and I'll be he and he'll be me.
A circle is closed, the second of three
The Third Circle
The earth is round, more or less,
just like the heads on all our shoulders.
My coffee cup, from the bird's-eye view,
Is round though two-dimensional.
Even the universe seems to have
the shape of an infinite expanding bubble.
Is this what makes the world go round?
It's not enough, this observed,
partly thought out rotundity.
The unexpected blow, the theft,
the unknown assassin's thrust,
the smiling traitor's perfidious lie
all smudge the portrait's shining splendor.
Now an imponderable upsets the equation:
She rounds the corner, looks about
like a child in a fairy fable
and makes her way to my shaded table.
She takes her place across from me,
for love is an ellipse,
the One is Three.
For more of the author's poetry, see "Circles"