I climb from the car,
stretch my legs like a wintered spider,
and blink to accustom myself
to the new slant of light.
The leaves in the parking lot rush to greet me,
brush against the tops of my shoes
and swirl around my ankles.
As I push through the heavy glass doors,
I see the secretary's desk
too early for her arrival.
save the driving arpeggios
of a lone pianist in the distance.
Only a month gone. Who am I?
Who is this grey mouse
who drags her wet wooly heart behind her,
and now tiptoes down the long hallway
as if walking were a sacrilege
and breathing a sin?
When did the block walls fade to grey?
When did the rooms grow so far apart?
The last month has curled up and tumbled away,
yellow giving way to brown,
leaving me startled at the jumble of unopened letters,
the piles of red-pocked term papers
stacked on my desk,
the tethered phone
I remove the sign on my door:
DO NOT ENTER: MUSICIAN WORKING
and scrape off the sticky remnants
of tape that still outline the now empty square.
I take down the helter-skelter posters,
and the out-of-date notices
that jostle each other for attention,
leaving the nude cork raw,
stubbled with thumbtacks.
The clock snaps to attention at 9:00.
The students begin to arrive
in streams of loopy yellow,
barging through the front doors,
red knots of giggles
and unintended rudeness.
I feel ragged and soft,
unfamiliar in this familiar world,
still trying to shake off images of a burning plane,
and a fog-shrouded bagpiper climbing the hill
next to an empty hole in the ground.
How strange it is to be here,
for I have returned like a prodigal daughter
from a distant shore,
having been garroted by the cruelty of the world.
The first student of the semester
knocks sharply on the door and as she enters
lowering her self-conscious eyes,
I swallow deep into my bones.
I straighten my skirt,
—Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios' award winning chapbook, Special Delivery, was published in 2016. She has poems published in various anthologies and journals including Stories of Music, Love Notes from Humanity, Poeming Pidgeon, Passager, NILVX, Unsplendid, and the American Journal of Poetry, and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is a Professor Emerita from American University, artistic director of the Redwoods Opera in Mendocino, California, a member of international Who’s Who of Musicians, and is past National President of the National Opera Association. She has spent much of her life performing as a singing artist across Europe and the United States.