Each of us, in turn, has to answer, in one word,
the question: What are you feeling?
In December no less, when it gets dark at four
and this classroom’s been double-booked.
Another band of politicized marginals
prowls restless in the corridor
while we sit in the folding-chair circle, weighing
raw responses to What are you feeling?
No time for tracts or tea, or even free tampons.
No time for support; just our word.
Okay, says the first; Fine, says the second.
But soon, sidestepping the common:
Flat; Round; Spiky; Vulvar; and best of all, Orange.
Gurgles of laughter, like water
from a forgotten hose. Raised to please, be placid,
unseen, untroublesome, we view jokes
as propitiation. Orange is legit.
Pierced by cloves, a Saint Sebastian sacrificed
to a fomenting stock. A kitchen Molotov cocktail.
Christmas gift from simpler times? No time,
no time for metaphors. The facilitator submits
her word, Proud, and an injunction to spread
the word. We put on coats, make metallic
small talk, our words bottle caps scrounged
from a fountain. Dispersal is never simple.
Fraternizing outside the confines of our group,
while not forbidden, feels profane. Even those
conjoined by a subway ride soon fall in, approach
the station in patchwork single file, POWs
allowed one last smoke. My penance:
I once encountered our facilitator at Loblaws.
Her face, breached, out of context, over
a knoll of unseasonal lychees. Not a smile
or nod. I turned as if prodded toward
the bakery aisle, a family-sized tub of croutons
to reflect on. At each meeting, I debate broaching
the matter, requesting some doctrine. The world
outside is where we blaspheme, starting with our dreams
of each other. Tell Margaret I dreamt of her walking
in Paris. What happened to your cane? I asked.
No answer. I walk home, playing hangman
with the one word for what I am feeling.