“Hold Perhaps or Maybe to Land” and “Stage Direction”

Issue 33 by Elana Mass

“Hold Perhaps or Maybe to Land” and “Stage Direction”

Hold Perhaps or Maybe to Land

At the gallery is The Kiss

– you know the one –

Those two marble lovers, oblivious, entwined,

Stealing a moment never meant to be seen.

Did they know what would come, I wonder.

Do you know they had names?

They're Paolo. And Francesca.

In another room sits a woman, nude,

With two men, clothed, on sun-dappled grass.

Some picnic. Is anyone thinking about the food?

There's a bridge over lilies, war-tattered sails,

And of course there's a girl

– here in headscarf and pearl –

Who stares back and dares us to understand her world

And to understand each world

As captured on canvas

In painstaking strokes, meticulous lines, and

Exuberant, jubilant swirls.

Except – wait – I think the word captured is wrong.

To hold, perhaps. Or maybe to land.

As in a butterfly lands,

As in a landing in time, on the canvas,

Of this bridge, this girl, in this light,

As it is, now.

As it was, then.

We are just the latest to use pigment and brush,

Charcoal on paper, a chisel on earth-hewn stone

To uncover some part of a why

Or a small part of sense

And to transmit in lines that reach across time:

This is how we are.

In September '01 I read Hamlet while my city

Smoked. Burned. Fumed.

With his play the prince held a mirror up to nature

And the reflection there of our infinite madness

Gave to me some sort of sorrowful comfort.

Now, after Manchester, Vegas, and Parkland,

After so many places between and since and before,

I see Francesca reaching for Paolo

– though they must have known they couldn't be –

And I think that those who say they have the answers

Haven't fully grappled with the questions.

Stage Direction

I didn't ask to be cast without reading for the part,

Without deference to the ones who staged the set

Or who handed me the starting lines

On that December morning.

Or for any special favors, really.

If it's strings you wanted, you should have been a puppeteer.

On your journey have you yet learned

That to direct is not to clamp, create not to command,

But instead to be the guide that lets the ones on stage

Come to the light, and in the light then find

The words they need to say?

It's all improvisation anyway –

There is no script.

No harm in that.

It just takes trust.

And no harm either in refusal of direction.

Have you never known the generosity of

A different point of view?

Stage left might have been my place.

But that's different from knowing where I stand.

About the Author

Elana Mass

Elana V. Mass wrote her first poem at age 5, proudly rhyming boot with hoot, and since then has written poems, personal essays, travel and environmental articles, and is revising her first middle grade novel. An urban planner by profession, she previously taught urban studies at Long Island University before moving to Auckland, NZ with her family in 2015, and has studied creative writing at the Sackett Street Writers Workshop, Auckland's Creative Hub, and the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence. Now back in the New York metro area, she does grant writing and outreach on sustainability issues and writes creatively as much as and as often as she can.