Coming Home at Nine

I got Marilyn in the bag
and big fat strawberry chews
and big fat strawberries covered
in chocolate
white for you
milk chocolate for me
I got nougat
wrapped in that thin
paper you can eat
and Malabar espresso beans
from India
acid-free the lady said
in the foreign food shop
No! real! she said, quite insulted
when I asked if the strawberry chews
were fake, if they were candy

they looked like candy
like cheap candy at 13.90 a bag
but she tossed the bag on a scale at the checkout
13.90 a hecto
so they got to be real

and I got a four-novels-in-one volume
of John Steinbeck, and an English reader
for Gymnasium from 1951
and a three-novels-in-one volume
of an author I never heard of
but the jacket quoted the Post and Times
saying he is an American treasure
we should know about

and I got Roald Dahl’s stories for grown-up
and The Bloomsbury Reader, a cross-reference
that says if you liked this author
you will also like that one
the same with books
it directs you through a literary
maze of must reads
a must, I thought, for our library
which is twelve or fifteen
or some such number of bookcases
bookcases in every room
bookcases as common as chairs
in our house

so when you said Bring me a present
I knew it had to be a book or two
I got five actually
and when I found the Marilyn Monroe hatbox
I had to bring her home to you too

so I sent my carry-on as luggage
with the books, and Marilyn’s got the coffee
and chewy candy looking strawberries
in her hatbox, and I’ve got Marilyn
in a big brown paper bag
and all I have to do now is decide
if you get her for Christmas
or for when I get home at nine
you said we’ll have spaghetti boulagnaise
if the plane’s on time
which it is, I am sure because I heard
the message bell tinkle on my phone
right as the woman next to me
got buzzed with a message
and the two bald men in matching blue shirts
that match the blue of the waiting lounge chairs
they both got messages and reached
like synchronized swimmers into their back pockets
as the old woman in the rain parka
and tennis shoes also got a message

all these phones pinging and zinging
so it was obvious the airline had sent little
welcome on board reminders
to get ourselves to the airport
so I didn’t bother to look at my phone
since all the others looked at theirs
and remained calm

all that’s left for me to do
is what criminals have always done:
line up and lay my finger on the pad
and they’ll let me through the gate
carrying Marilyn with her big fat
chocolate covered chewy strawberries
we’ll have for dessert
we’ll drink espresso from India
we’ll read a story at bedtime
so set the table, open the wine
I’ll be home at nine bearing gifts
all these and more I may have forgotten
just for you, for nobody else
but you