In the Tower Record Store, my Friend Lynn and I attempt to get Signatures for Petitions on Human Rights

for Lori Berenson

Gold Fish by Henri Matisse.
RED FISH, 1912
Henri Matisse, 1869-1954
Oil on canvas, 140x98 cm
Copyright ©1998 The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

(Click on image for larger version.)

As if only half awake, they have anointed themselves for passage into adult life.
They have tinted their hair the colors of different flavors of sherbet, have pierced
their navels, ears, noses, painted their toenails blue. They swim past like beautiful,
tropical fish in a tank, to which someone has added remnants of vodka, or gin.

Their eyes glaze over when we stop them to speak the names of countries far
away.They blink back geography. Injustice is a word attached to nothing, a piece of flotsam
which makes them nervous, as do we--- two not-young women
standing in the store, not shopping. They scull away down wide aisles and
rattle cellophane wrappers, forage among compact discs.

How to call them back to sign their names, to tread through a syncopated blare
for a woman tortured in Peru. In a glass case behind us, pewter figurines
of Star Wars heroes hold court. Bayberry candles are for sale.

In time, a few of the more curious drift back to us. Rising from the deep pools of all
they do not wish to know, they ask what we are doing. When we tell them,
their eyes widen, waking to the world in small increments. To the woman in Peru,
held high in the mountains where cold and altitude break
the capillaries in her hands and face, we write: Hold On.

in Apalachee Review, #50 2001

Gail Golden

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