Jan/Feb 2007 Poetry Special Feature

Stained Glass

by Jennifer Finstrom

Artwork by Ira Joel Haber

Stained Glass

Almost every day,
I sit on the top step
of the third floor stairwell
and put on my battered
black work shoes,
tying the laces
in tight double knots.
My duffle bag is beside me,
and my coffee,
and before standing up,
I gaze for a moment
at the window set
in the wall opposite.
It is an old window,
stained glass from when
this building was built
over one hundred years before.
The wind blows cold
outside, but it is too hot
within; in our collection
of rooms, the radiators
hiss and pop, a coiled
dragon breathing steam
on the old walls and
creaking floors that weakly
protest where I walk.

Most of the window
is made up of geometric
shapes, stylized irises
and tulips that rise
straight and tall like
the columns of a temple.
One green rectangle
has been replaced
by a piece of white
plastic, and another
bears a tiny hole
as if a boy, long ago,
flung a pebble from
the street. The top
third of the window
depicts a red and white
house behind rolling
green hills. There is
depth and perspective
here. A trio
of yellow poplars
towers above its roof,
and a blue lake
lies serene as glass.

Lately I have found
myself pondering
this house's inhabitants,
the stained glass people
whose lives are juxtaposed
with mine. They are
a man and a woman,
childless and quiet.
They cannot leave
the impediment of their
home to gaze into the lake
or stand beneath
the poplars' cooling shade.
I imagine them sitting
down to a dinner of glass
soup in glass bowls. They
carefully sip crystal-
chiming tea. When they
have finished, they clear
their cups and bowls
and wash them in a small
glass sink. In the evening,
the man makes repairs
to the fragile house,
while the woman, in her
sharp-edged bathrobe,
listens to her caged
canaries singing. The birds
are tiny and golden, their song
a whisper of something
dropped and shattered. They
flutter glass feathers as
the woman closes her
eyes, imagining
a world where nothing
is broken.


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