January Gill




Last night, I saw a long, blue umbrella
hanging on a table by its crooked handle.
A green and brown strap held
its collapsed ribs in place.
Whose is it? No one in sight.
Umbrellas carry their own currency
passed from friend to friend,
a spare on a car’s back seat
waiting to be used. Umbrella,
from the word umbra, meaning shadow.
Not a parasol or bumbershoot
but something large, waterproof, telescopic,
stretched wide, spun on its tip
by my daughter in August rain.
Gene Kelly kisses Debbie Reynolds
under a black dome before he tosses it
and begins to sing, and Rhianna twirls,
splashes puddles, asking us to stand under hers.
Does anyone ever buy an umbrella?
Maybe before or during a downpour
but never after. I have seen too many
left behind in frustration, poking out
of trash cans, their spikes pointing skyward,
or flipped inside out by a harsh wind. Or worse—
forgotten in movie theaters or subway cars.
No, there is grace in a left-behind umbrella
picked up by someone who needs it more
at that particular moment, maybe when their sky is falling
or caught by surprise. Once, at dinner
with my best friend at a Chinese restaurant,
we’re the last ones in the place,
nothing but broken fortunes and the check
in front of us. How will we make it as writers?
we asked each other. Then the sky opened
up, heavy drops for blocks and blocks.
There in the corner a black umbrella
leaned against the glass doors, waiting.
As we paid the check, the man behind the counter
said take it.