15/30 Poems in November: Pilot Light

scarfWhen I was a little girl, I had a friend
who was a grown-up woman.
This grown-up woman grew up in Brooklyn.

Her parents were immigrants.
She was schooled in lighting candles for ghosts
and reading cards for guidance.

Equal parts Russian scarves and leather jackets,
she treated me like a person.
Before we fell out, I’d take the Peter Pan bus

from Amherst to Boston.
One time I brought the new Los Lobos
album — so excited to have a gift for her —

La pistola y el corazón. 
South Station was no place for a teenage girl.
She’d be there waiting for me

and we’d take the T back
to her second-floor walk-up.
In my mind’s eye,  so much older

myself now than she even was then, 

I see the book of matches
on the stove top —

the pilot light was fussy — 
and another on the back 
of the toilet — to cover the smell 

of human waste.
We talked about dreams 
and death. Like I said, unlikely.

One day, 20 years after 
she broke my young heart, 
I received an email:

She never meant to cause harm. 
I believed her, 
having just caused some 

irreversible damage myself. 
Whenever I see a gas stove
with that flickering pilot light,

I think of her. 

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