An Old Umbrella

By Richard Luftig


 
Propped against the bench
of the bus stop for weeks,
no, make that months.
She’s pretty sure that no one
 
has taken or even moved it
to a more convenient spot.
It may have been red once,
now faded almost to white,
 
but still stately, even with
its peeling, wooden handle:
wooden, not plastic, like those cheap
knock-offs you find in the dollar store
 
on sale for eighty-nine cents.
She’s been tempted from time
to time to claim it, take it
home, but really, what good
 
is a tall umbrella to anyone
in this city, where it rains
twice a year and then maybe
for twenty minutes. Every day
 
she sees it as she waits for the bus
to take her downtown; forty-five
minutes when traffic is good,
ninety when she needs to leave
 
her apartment during rush hour
to be on time to clean rooms
and make up forty beds
at the three-star, Yelp rated motel.
 
Once, when there was no one
else on the bench to see her,
she reached out, and without
popping it open, felt its metal

ribs, half-expecting to feel
a regular heartbeat at its core.
Strong ribs, strong enough
to keep a life intact, never
 
let it pass away, abandon
you, leave you to fend
for yourself. It was then
that the temptation
 
was greatest, to take it,
make it her own—who
would miss it anyway—
finders, keepers.
 
But she knows what
Frank would have said:
Who the hell wants
an umbrella large enough
 
for two, when you hardly
ever even need the one
propped up in your closet,
unused and far too big for one? 

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