THE PORTRAIT

My endlessly tattling nieta asks:
“Who is that old woman on the wall, abuelo?
Why does she follow me wherever I go?”

I have always meant to dust it off,
this picture on the wall: a patrician pose,
an arching neck, a hint of a shy smile.

“No one you know. But sing me another song,
that one about a new song unto the world.
How does that go again? Sing a new song.”

“Her eyes are sad, and they always follow me.
Why does she do that, abuelo. Is she lonely?
And she has a funny-looking dress. Tra-la, lala.”

But that was another time. Another world.
At sundown I look into those eyes, and I go there,
beside her, and sing old songs. O, the old songs!

The late spring wind ruffles the gossamer curtains
that brush against the jangling chime bells: outside
the wind has no regard for our little nostalgias.

—Albert B. Casuga
04-22-11