Jean L. Kreiling

Failure to Convert

I wanted to believe--well, truthfully,
I wanted to believe the things he said
about my legs, my lips, our chemistry--
and so one sunny morning, when he led
me through a pair of heavy doors that creaked
with ancient promises, past rows of pews
whose polished wood was radiantly streaked
with stained-glass echoes, I heard his “good news”
with what was almost reverence, despite
my faith in doubt, and I almost agreed
that piety like his was also right
for me.  But no new lust could supersede
the qualms I’d held so close.  I left him there,
true to myself, if still without a prayer.

Unreliable Witness

Yes, I walk by here every evening, right
around this time.  I’m no voyeur, but yes,
their picture window draws my eye--a bright,
broad frame for family portraits.  I confess
that I’ve looked forward to that moment when
I turn the corner onto Pinewood Court
and see the intimate tableau again:
mom, dad, a son, a daughter--just the sort
of neighbors you would want--a scene of cozy
companionship as they relaxed together,
watched TV, or played board games.  I’m not nosy
enough to stare--I couldn’t tell you whether
their game was chess or Trivial Pursuit--
I just kept walking my accustomed route.

Some summer evenings brought them all outside,
the grownups watching as the children ran
and laughed.  The parents seemed to take great pride
and pleasure in their happy little clan.
And when I walked this way in autumn’s chill,
I gazed at that big window jealously,
just wishing that their warmth and cheer could spill
out here along with lamplight.  I could see
them sitting side by side to read or chat;
once I heard music, and I saw them dance;
they never even seemed to have a spat.
A troubled home, you ask?  Oh, not a chance.
There was no trace of tension or distress;
no tragedy could lurk at this address.

But last night as I walked along this street,
the picture window framed only the dad,
the tableau noticeably incomplete.
How did he look?  Well, fine . . . I think he had
a drink in one hand.  Yes, I wondered where
the others were.  I wasn’t worried, though--
I’d never seen a hint of danger there.
I didn’t stop; I had two miles to go.
And then tonight, I walk into this scene:
the dad handcuffed, lights flashing red and blue,
an ambulance--not rushing--does that mean
the worst?  Detective, did I miss some crucial clue?
Sometimes the children or their mother waved;
I didn’t know they needed to be saved.

Jean L. Kreiling is the prize-winning author of three poetry collections: Shared History (2022), Arts & Letters & Love (2018), and The Truth in Dissonance (2014).  She is an Associate Poetry Editor for Able Muse: A Review of Poetry, Prose & Art and a longtime member of the Powow River Poets; she lives on the coast of Massachusetts.