Focused on a book
of poems, front -porch swinging, the woman
cups her hand against her brow to shade her eyes.
It is not enough that there is a tree
hanging over her and no traces
of sun for her to block.
She is the only one on this well-scrubbed block
who reads, and her book
is held flat so no one traces
the oddities that build around her, a woman
who would read frivolous words beneath an elm tree
under midday eyes.
There is something in her eyes
that they cannot forgive; she can block
their unsubtle attempts to tree
her like a hunted racoon, even without her book,
and they cluck their tongues and call her "that woman"
because she is not a horse broken to the traces.
Eventually, alone in the refuge of the strange, she traces
branch fingers falling dark across the page and eyes
the prison door, waiting for a crack big enough for a woman
and her mind. She will prop it open with a block
for her sisters to follow and, like her, book
themselves passage out from under the porch tree.
Maybe it will be the tree
that she will climb to heaven, no traces
of her life in the courthouse book
to be found by descended eyes
hungry to fill in the block
on a chart labeled "woman."
Until the door opens or the woman
finds her feet to climb the tree,
she will sit reading, the only one on this starched and ironed block
to pass her afternoons on the porch, the only traces
that she feels them watching in the shielded eyes,
the hand curving against the brow, a tunnel from eye to book.