by Roger Pfingston

Downtown early this morning, streets empty,   
a quiet presence in sneakers, I strayed
a few blocks to follow a tall woman                  
wearing a long black coat and scarf,
a black purse in one hand, a dark wood cane
in the other, tapping as she walked at a clip,
her thin ankles thrusting up out of shoes                   
with low, sturdy heels . . . flashback of a black
and white image, a Pathé newsreel circa 1949,
the Carlton Theater on Main Street,   
me suffering through the news of the world
on a Saturday afternoon, waiting for Porky Pig
or Daffy Duck, Gene Autry “back in the saddle
again” for Republic Pictures . . . later, standing
on a downtown corner chewing the last
of my Milk Duds, my mother’s words keeping
me alert for the right bus home,
Heidelbach. . . .   

I considered closing the gap between us
just to “know her” a while longer,
the fist of her hand gripping the cane,
the weight of her coat, maybe pass her
with a “good morning” that might allow me
a look at her face, hidden by the knotted scarf,
but I had my own appointment to keep.    

Fighting back a welling up that caught me                                              
unawares, I turned west on Sixth Street
as she continued north, the cane a faint ticking
muted by the peal of the courthouse clock.                  
Greeted by my own reflection, my face
etched gold with M.D.s, I opened the door,
turned right and signed in late before
sitting down with my latest mystery,
next to me a man bent forward, mumbling
over paperwork as I turned the page,
waiting, always the shock of it,
the undeniable truth of my own name.


A retired teacher of English and photography,
Roger Pfingston
is the recipient of a poetry fellowship from the National
Endowment for the Arts.  He has poems in recent issues of
Innisfree Poetry Journal
, Hamilton Stone Review, and DMQ
.  New work will appear in Rhino and I-70 Review.  A
poem recently published in
Poetry East will be featured in Ted
Kooser’s weekly column, American Life in Poetry, in December
of this year.  His latest chapbook,
A Day Marked for Telling, is
available from Finishing Line Press.

On “Appointments”:
“Appointments” began, I think—who can ever be absolutely
sure of a poem’s genesis—with actually coming across the
woman described in the poem, the striking appearance of her
height enhanced by what she was wearing, the darkness of it,
and how that took me back to the newsreels of the 1940s which
were often paired with other “shorts” such as cartoons and
film serials featuring Red Ryder, Flash Gordon, etc.  Whether
or not the woman had an “appointment” doesn’t matter, of
course, but I was impressed with her bearing, the strength
and determination of her movement which, to my mind, also
implied strength of mind and character . . . a survivor.   

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 9, Number 1
(Spring 2014)

Copyright © 2014
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.