by Theodora Goss
It happened on a Tuesday.
She stole away
from her respectable self, the self
with duties, responsibilities.
Slouching, she slunk like a common criminal
through back streets, to a café
she had seen the week before and asked,
in a hushed voice, for a pastry, a cup of coffee.
She sat on a velvet chair by a small, circular table
with a marble top, a rose in a crystal vase.
while the other customers were looking elsewhere,
she stole an hour.
She sat, brazenly licking cream
from a silver-plated spoon
all by herself, for no reason whatsoever
while at home
the laundry was looking for her, the trash bins
were wondering where she had gone.
When she got back to the waiting, impatient house,
where everything clamored for her attention,
she checked her handbag. Yes, there it was:
the stolen hour, still bright and shining.
In the hall mirror, she could see
her stolen self, only a little disheveled.
And she noticed, as she hung up her coat
again, that the old tabby cat
who wandered at will through a hidden kingdom
of back gardens, returning, sometimes, with feathers
in his mouth, gave her, for the first time, a look
of sly understanding.
(The image is Reading at a Café by Jane Peterson.)