Blue Umbrella

by Gail Mazur

Deer Isle

Kai says, “Here, let me fix that, you don’t know
how.” This elegant mechanism, a present
from my daughter, topped by its own wind hat,
engineered not to turn inside out in nor’easters
or August hurricanes. Ingenious invention of China
and Egypt, emblem of rank in remote antiquity,
collapsible shade, pampering portable sunscreen
at least a millennium before a damp Brit eureka’d
the thought of keeping dry. Bishop’s Crusoe
fashioned one on his desolate island, had “such a time”
remembering the way the ribs would go.
Palpable perfection centuries in the making.
Cobalt canopy I left sprung open to dry outdoors,
away from the library’s waxed floors. A courtesy,
I thought, and someone’s shoved it into a railing,
so one of the little wooden caps that tip the steel ribs
and hold the water-proofed cloth taut, has split.
Now there’s a gap in my assurance of shelter.
Ruined, ruined, I think — my small losses
resound in me today as titanic griefs — but Kai —
who makes his art from what you might call nothing —
toothpicks, mussel shells, buttons, discarded books,
garlic stems — who’ll find anywhere, in Toronto
or Kowloon or at this island’s dump swap shop,
the raw ingredients of his dreamy constructions,
Kai, who knows I’m not “skillful with my hands”
yet hasn’t turned from me, Kai, smiling
in his yellow silk quilted jacket, in his black beret
in the rain, holds out the deft hand of friendship
and takes the ultimate umbrella to his work-
bench, carving for me two perfect maple caps,
one for now, one for the future, when he knows
in his heart I’ll need another (don’t things
always break?) — And won’t we two be far apart?

Gail Mazur, Blue Umbrella from “Zeppo’s First Wife” (University of Chicago Press, 2005).