Maya Nordine

Maya Nordine

The Secret Life of People Who Care

after Phyllis Bramson


On the platform, I notice a woman’s tote:
You Can Never Have Too Many Books
I’m trying to rid myself 
of mine. So sorry for my shelf,
so old, and with chipped black paint, 
that has to carry the weight of
my attachment. I slide through closing 
doors, eye a seat closest to the emergency 
exit, motion for the girl there to move
her bag. She is reading something
on human behavior. I follow 
her pen, skimming the page and 
want to tell her I’m not done
before she turns.


I revisit the Cultural Center because 
it’s free. I get off at State & Lake. 
I walk against the wind, climbing 
up the stairs. I clutch the buttons 
of my winter coat, ignoring the man 
asking for change. Feel three quarters 
in my pocket as I near the top floor. 
An exhibition by an artist whose name 
I don’t recognize.
Standing too close to the painting, 
I notice I can’t see the corners. 
I teeter, lose perspective, to gain 
a better grip, backslide, break 
out in tears when I realize what 
I’m staring at—
A woman, the clown,  
her polka-dotted handkerchief 
blotting her rosy cheek,
unable to gather the tears
dripping onto her bare breasts.
Doting upon her shoulder, a boy, 
his small cheek pressed against hers.
The security guard catches me. 
She tells me I’m too close.


You’re two weeks dead.
I’m in a mood. It’s January. 
Trees are in bloom, still. 
I pull at the roots. I catch 
the seasonal sale, serendipitously.
I don’t need anything, but I push 
jeans along the rack, reduced 
but out of budget. They don’t fit 
but they’re perfect. Vintage, 
but like new. I tell myself, 
This is what your life is missing.
At the Dior counter I tell 
the woman I’m looking for 
shades of purple. I sit down 
in her chair. As she primps 
my cheeks, she says pop of color 
seven times. I ask her how long 
she’s been doing this. I don’t care, 
but I want to talk to someone
about anything. I spend 
two hundred dollars 
and feel alive.

MAYA NORDINE lives in Chicago, Illinois, where she runs a bi-weekly writing workshop called Study Hall. She holds an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles.