Escape Poem by Barbara Guest


After so many hours spent in the room,
One wonders what the room will do.
Whether speech or action will be first,
And whether the weather will be first
To begin.

Such long inaction is unnatural.
But why should it happen to you, when
Outside, the street has silver cars,
All unoccupied, equipped and ready
For departure? Even the kitchens
Are ready with pans, and the dishes for something
Heretofore unplanned. The people who pass
Whisper and stare, then say, "house."
Why not accept the waiting and forego
The known? After all,
Occupancy is only a matter of making up
One's mind. The silver cars are square
And the room is long.

Interruption would be different in a car.
It would come on the road, like trees and fern.
Like the flowers whose names have been learned.
Or sandwiches made in layers; the friction
Would be brief and quickly swallowed.
Not people. Not the stranger with the listening
Heart, or the girl without a mind. Not
Person. The encroachment would be barely
Visible. It would happen on a side road,
A detour, or a highway cut by mistake.
You would wipe it off like the windshield
And be ready for the next advance.

After all, this house is old.
How many people come creeping,
After the spider, upstairs. Some with bags
And some with baskets, and all going nowhere. They
Only want to settle under the roof like pigeons;
Quarter their young and prepare for the future.

But you are different. You have watched
The vanishing of the separate ghosts. You have seen,
Over the bannister, the disappearance
Even of those who tried to remain.
You should not wait for the walls
To speak. Go into the bathroom,
Turn on the faucett, and swim into the street.

Barbara Guest

Barbara Guest

Wilmington, North Carolina, United States
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