Two weeks into the bottle of pills, I’d remember
exiting the one-hour lens grinder at Copley Square
the same store that years later would be blown
black and blood-spattered by a backpack
bomb at the Marathon. But this was back when
terror happened elsewhere. I walked out
wearing the standard Boston graduate student
wire-rims, my first-ever glasses, and saw little people
in office tower windows working late under fluorescent
lights. File cabinets with drawer seams blossomed
wire bins, and little hands answered little black
telephones, rested receivers on bloused shoulders
real as the tiny flushing toilets, the paneled wainscoting
and armed candelabras I’d gasped at as a child in
the miniatures room at the Art Institute in Chicago.
It was October and I could see the crisp edges
of everythingwhere the branches had been a blur
of fire, there were now scalloped oak leaves, leathery
maple five-points plain as on the Canadian flag.
When the wind lifted the leaves the trees went pale,
then dark again, in waves. Exhaling manholes,
convenience store tiled with boxed cigarettes
and gum, the BPL’s forbidding fixtures lit
to their razor tips and Trinity’s windows holding
individual panes of glass between bent metal like
hosts in a monstrance. It was wonderful. It made
me horribly sad.
It was the same
years later with the pills. As I walked across
the field, the usual field, to the same river,
I felt a little burst of joy when the sun cleared
a cloud and sprinkled light into the flitting treetops.
It was fricking Christmas, and I was five years old!
I laughed out loud, picked up my pace, felt suddenly
fortunate, invincible. The sun was shining on me,
on the trees, on the whole damn world. It was
exhilarating. And sad. In fact it really sucked,
that sham. Nothing had changed. Or
I had. But who wants to be that kind of happy?
The lenses, the doses. Nothing should be that easy.
Maggie Dietz is the author of Perennial Fall and former director of the Favorite Poem Project. She teaches at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.