The paintings, they soothed me
warmed me as I entered the quiet space.
The ambience was peaceful,
just what I needed.
I was offered wine and cheese
immediately upon entering,
and little chocolates on a small plate.
Like the guest in The Red Brocade
who was not asked what he was there for
or where he was going. But instead
was offered nourishment and snippets
of mint to put in his tea.
The owner was not there, but Peter was,
and Carmen, their big brown dog.
Carmen ran away while I was there
and that caused some drama.
I stayed and looked after the Gallery
while Peter scurried up and down the block
in a mild panic, trying to find their dog
who had never run away before.
She's never done that, he said
looking seriously distraught.
I stood, glass in hand with sparkling water,
walked and turned and looked some more,
quieted by the presence of lightly-washed paintings,
landscapes of nature and dogs and people,
an interior world of empty beds.
I had found this gallery, and the bearded gentleman
and his wife, and we were sure we knew each other.
And then his wife came in, who owned the
gallery, and she was as lively as Peter, and happy
'cause Carmen had been found
who wagged her tail and bounded over
to Peter, and everyone was happy again,
Several blocks from the ocean, the wind
was cold, and I was wrapped in a heavy
wool coat and hand-knit scarf, my wool beret
and purple gloves.
Still... there was that mystery between Peter, Anne and me ~
how did we know each other, where had we met?
It was Howie, she suddenly blurted out!
You were at Howie Leifer's memorial.
Yes, that's it. And a flood of memories came back
and the years all came together
and the French-American school where we both taught.
And his art and all the things he did ~
puppet shows and music and teaching,
anti-war marches and solidarity with the people
of El Salvador, and walking with his larger-than-life
puppets down Market Street with hundreds of thousands
of others. Howie was such a mensch.
His art is all over our home! they said. He is everywhere!
And he would make the biggest Trump puppet if he were alive,
we said! And then I grew sad and I missed my friend.
And we talked some more, of how we met,
at Howie's memorial, and we talked of Phil Ochs
and music and art. I walked into a gallery
and was welcomed by a stranger,
was offered cheese and wine and water.
I was warmed in the presence
of softly-washed paintings
and came away bonded by art and friendship.
I went out into the night, bundled against the cold,
walked toward the ocean as the sun set,
and got on the streetcar and a bus ride home.
Warmed with the thoughts of a friend now gone,
and new friends who will be there when I return.
Marlene Aron February 23, 2017