Maria's Smile
by Dave Oliphant

has never changed with
age the welcoming curve
of her winsome lips
two front teeth first

glimpsed in Santiago’s Institute
at the check-out desk
as she stamped due
dates filled patron requests

happy in her work
searching file & record
always ready to serve
but ID card required

can recognize it anywhere
even from years before
in profile on stairs
in her desert north

standing with left foot
tiptoed as her face
with its ingenuous look
turns from barren space

toward his camera lens
a scarf over hair
tied beneath her chin
homemade skirt & sweater

captured at sixteen in
copper country by Saul
an admirer from then
grateful to that rival

for his earlier lust
inscribed on this picture
his “she at dusk”
“ella en el atardecer”

after we wed giving
birth & writing kin
desperately missed while living
in places completely foreign

on a teacher’s pathetic
pay then returned together
to visit Arica’s Pacific
surf with behind her

banana leaves & waves
wearing her yellow sweatshirt
& red-corn kernels necklace
so beautiful it hurt

her hairline straight between
dark strands combed apart
pulled back by ribbon
or rubber band starts

again thoughts of how
her mature dignified style
she insists on now
has replaced that idyll

refuses to play her
younger self to dress
as if a teenager
then gaze at this

of a second grandchild
held in her arms
here too her smile
remaining just as warm

tender open if anything
sweeter even with gray
untinted hair no wrinkling
taking its radiance away

Illya's Honey Literary Journal

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