On Time

Each night, as the world sleeps, I think. Of Time. Of men and women. Boys and girls. Battleships and battlefields. Wounds that do not heal. Of them — the crochet quartet that meets for hearty drinks (never coffee, too hot) and a light brunch (no muffins, too many crumbs) at the coffee shop each morning, just after ten. The small restaurants’ lights blink: WELCOME. In oversized red font. Despite their now natural (not original) hesitation, they accept the invitation.

The women pull small plastic bags out of their plaid and puffer coat pockets — both fully zipped and neatly stocked. My boss pretends not to notice. They let him. I don’t know what their snacks are called, but I know I want some. I crave the mix’s sweet and salty crunch and the women’s warmth. Hair carefully coiffured. Lips fully lacquered. Stories and tales of childhood are sliced and diced. Atop large satchels of yarn. Amidst blends of cinnamon and nutmeg spice. Coveted and clothed by black lug-soled loafers. The quartet fuels and feeds a hunger that has nothing to do with compass dials or net worth but danger from places and spaces left behind.

Instead, they focus. On everything and anything – eggs (over easy), sports (more wrestling than football), the weather (prime dew points for tulips and turtles), far removed from CNN and local news. Mostly, each other. They cluck tongues and click needles. Consume crackers, lightly sweetened tea, and raw carrots. They string fibers of cotton (some wool) and syllables (many shrill). Their fingers move in rhythmic motions. Eyes down. Shoulders straight. Their conversation both canvas and blanket. All topics but one fair game. A silent understanding — the skies off limits. Not even a trace.

Updates stream on the shop’s black and white TVs. Missiles rained on a schoolyard in Myanmar this week. Reporters attempt to find words to convey what their facial expressions bluntly state. The crochet quartet listens without shifting their gait. They were once of a similar age. Forced to run in order to stay. Needles continue to tack. Their L’eggs-covered limbs are shadows of time past. I know their thoughts are heavy. The weight of hoodlums and the threat of hosings linger in plain sight. On wrinkled faces and hunched shoulders. Of plastic shells and shelling.

As their knotted fingers stitch rows and new cables, I watch their fingers click. Then clock. Time traced and tracked. A wrinkle in (and of) time. The quartet sits masked but fully present. Madeleine L’Engle knew all about time travel. The women say no to the Grande and the Latte. They use blunt speech and clippings. They know better than to worry over trivialities. Content with their own snacks, the fabric on their laps, and the beat of their own feet, a safe seat at the table is all they seek. On the TVs, updates continue to beep. The women don’t blink. They fled their own land decades ago. Like others who flew hate then found more. How far we’ve come, only to go nowhere at all.

About the Poem

When days of remembrance are marked by more war, I continue to wonder – what are we waiting (and hoping) for?

About the Author

Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, works, and writes in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania.

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