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Mary Verbick


Mary Verbick readingBus Vignettes

The girl glided onto the bus. It would be a dramatic understatement to say she was thin. A lavender silk headscarf defined the slender shape of her skull and framed her delicate face. It fell in slender, silky folds to the tiny tips of her fingers. Her autumn gold sarong hugged minimal hips and invisible stick legs. Everything about her was indescribably narrow – face, features, shoulders, hands. She carried no bulk, no substance. Even her movements were nominal. She slid onto a bench seat between two large men whose bodies commanded all but a tiny space. Her slender company required no shifting from the men. They made an intriguing sandwich – solid and substantial on the outside, ethereal and vaporous in the middle. Her willowy presence seemed more elf than human. I returned to the book in my lap. Moments later, I glanced toward the lavender and gold whisper of a girl. The two men had consumed the tiny space she had so recently occupied. She must have gone while I was reading. It seemed as if she had never been there at all.

* * *

The figure approached slowly – paused, stooped, stood - shuffled on. As the distance between us lessened, the lumpy shape became a man with bundles on either side. His path zigzagged the long narrow alley. He continued to travel haltingly – stoop, stand, shuffle – stoop, stand, shuffle. He seemed to be gathering every collectible thing along his trajectory – tiny scraps of paper, cigarette buts, bottle caps - bits of city flotsam. He reached a mural wall across the road. Its vivid blue color sharply revealed details of his form. His coat was in tatters. Ragged socks peeked through the canvas of his shoes. Soiled trousers bunched up around his ankles. His downcast eyes scanned the path from an unshaven face. A shaggy mane was partly covered by a lumpish thing no longer recognizable as a hat. Bulging plastic grocery bags hung from each fist. In his left hand, he also clutched a dry bundle of grass and seed heads plucked from a sidewalk crevasse. His purposeful, fastidious behavior was a stark contrast to his disheveled appearance. I still wonder why he cleaned the city in broken shoes and carried a grass bouquet.

* * *

Brown curly hair was pulled back from her wholesome freckled face and bound at the back of her head. One strap of her summer camisole had fallen from her left shoulder. She moved in a carefree child-like manner as she picked her way across the crowded lawn. A young man leaning against a lone tree joined my people-watching project. His curious gaze followed the girl as she found a vacant patch of grass and bent to spread her blanket. He was rewarded with an eyeful of sun-kissed cleavage. Her movements held his attention as she plopped onto the blanket in a fanfare of long tan legs. By happenstance, the girl of wayward breasts and golden legs had chosen a spot near two women wrapped in scarves and burkas. In contrast to the girl, their posture was contained, their movements rationed. Lovely brown faces and delicate fingertips were the only woman parts exposed - other feminine gifts draped - hidden. The eyes of the watching man scanned past the cloth-bound women without pause, as if they were invisible. The three women waiting for the concert to begin seemed unaware of their disparate existence. They sat all evening with an inch of space between them - on the same hill, under the same sky, hearing the same music, but living in vastly different worlds.

* * *

Her sudden potent presence grabbed all eyes. She swept onto the bus with a confident step. Thrusting her voluptuous self into our city bus world, she wore womanhood without coyness. A crown of hair bleached golden perched upon her held-high head. Wide-open eyes of infinite black rode sharply above broad nose and full lips. Her bright fuchsia top suspended by string-thin straps clung softly. Dark bare skin of arms and shoulders glowed. Bright bangles danced beneath ebony ear lobes. Vermillion nails tipped long elegant fingers. She traveled the ribbed vinyl runner flinging her vast breasts before her – twin heralds declaring, “I am woman!” She disembarked our common chariot a few blocks down. Departing hips, straining at fabric, swayed a powerful punctuation. She strolled beyond view - an African Queen gracing hot city pavement.

* * *

The young man moved with a measured bravado. He strutted softly between the seat rows casting glances - wanting an open passage. His shaven skull and array of facial piercings tagged him a tough guy, but there was a softness in his careful eye. He claimed the empty seat directly in front of me. As he arranged himself, I breathed in the scent he carried. I knew that fragrance – baby powder. The incongruity made me smile as I stared at the skull and crossbones tattooed on his white neck. At the next stop, this lamb in bold armor surrendered his seat to a woman with a crinkled map of a face.


MoonInvisible Forces 

Full Moon scratches at the window
Her beams ricochet off snowy spruce arms
She calls…taunts…teases
Come out, come out - follow the light
Be renewed, like tidewaters on the shore

Abandoned by sleep, trapped in melancholy exil
Night offers no salve for fears
Restless feet urge me flee this truculent sleeping room
Leave pain, worry, tense muscles, tight chest
Free my heart

The midnight hour, frigid air, deep snow
Have killed day noise
There is no movement, no wind
I step into the wall of hush
Breaking it with foot crunch and soft breath

Moon makes charcoal images of every upright thing
Black shapes rendered on white snow
bare branches are delicate black lace on white skin
Snow-clumped spruce bend in prayer
The shadow of me… is flat…deflated…lost

Moon points, a snow bed beckons
I sink into shimmering cold white sheets
Unfettered light floods… softly… silently
I am covered with blankets of midnight radiance
Moon kisses my face

Pulled and pushed by invisible forces
Under my parka, inside my skin,
I am awash with emotion
My eyes leak tiny oceans.
They spill freely, pinching as they freeze

Moon sneaks under eyelid chinks
Pulling out heart ache
Pushing in brightness… whispering comfort
Come out, come out - follow the light
Be renewed, like tidewaters on the shore.

Raspberry Light

bright white light

dappled green light

warm brown light


plump red jewels

plucked by quick fingers


into the small cavern of a sticky face.