Strangers I Think I Know

By: Connie Zumpf

Featured art: The Siesta by Paul Gauguin

A woman steps off a bus or a train,
and something about her—
the way she holds her shoulders,
that straight-on walk—
swings my head around.

I am here, not over there. But maybe
there’s an occasional breach
where the skin of time thins,
and I glimpse unlived versions
of myself on a crowded street,
or through bookshelves in a library.

Where do lives go
when they peel off in parallel?

I could be the ghost of a small girl
who drowned, now hovering
like an imp over her mother’s life.

Or a woman married, now forty years,
a circle of pale skin under her ring,
eyes dimmed from years
of looking away—

some might-have-been me is a doctor
who teaches psychology and practices
Tai Chi alone on the beach.

Or is this an alternate life I’m in—
my real self’s hologram,
crept in under the tent flap while

embodied me pulls tankards of ale
in a pub in Dublin, relieved
she left Denver and loving her life
as an expat part-time bartender?

She laughs at the thought
of a younger self who dreamed
of writing poetry in a parlor lined
with potted plants.

I am certain
I’ve stared into the hazy light
of lives I never knew,
brushed thighs with myself on a
crowded bench—

times when my life
stepped out for a moment
from behind the vanishing
of what I have chosen
not to be, the endless parade
of what I didn’t become.

Connie Zumpf’s poetry has appeared in North American Review, Pilgrimage Magazine, The Christian Century, I-70 Review, and other publications. Her chapbook “Under This Sun” was published in March 2020 (Finishing Line Press). Zumpf is a member of Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, CO.

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