Not Another Torch Song
When I sit down to write poetry, I see you.
Every morning, I wake to a fog
receding over a marsh. Over that marsh, a bridge,
rickety as an old man on his way to market,
arcs between last night’s minor catastrophes
of final exams in the nude and the birdsong filtering
into the bedroom. And at the bottom of that bridge,
a cluster of fireflies circle. The space between their bodies
forms your silhouette, your eyes flicker like a distant forest fire
or a torch song.
During my afternoons, while writing, the marsh seeps back,
computer buzz becoming cicadae, and I’m stranded
in a place between dreaming and waking,
past and present. Twenty three years ago I met you
at a club, dancing. We traded two months like recipe cards.
Your specialty was pasta al dente with pink sauce and love poetry;
mine was a classroom devotion. You
set me at your desk with a notebook and pen
once to see what I could bundle, arrange, cut and water
to fill your apartment. I have not left since.
This isn’t a torch song
where I write poetry proclaiming how much I need you
all these years later, but rather the well I dip from
regularly. I don’t get writer’s block;
I see you
reading Khalil Gibran, the Nag Champa mystifying his words
about higher love, its ash forming symbols on the hard wood
floor of your apartment until the haze of sunrise,
I see the heave of your chest under a white t-shirt,
the chaffing from grinding blue jeans
to blue jeans on our early dates,
your half-smiles at my jokes,
and late at night, our collapse in each other’s arms
only to find a second wind strong enough
to twist and twirl the sheets like spaghetti
until the moon fell from its starry shelf.
Yes, when I think of you, something in my chest clicks,
a spring tightens and hours pass.
No, this isn’t a torch song; it is your name, the bucket scrape
against the bricked corner before the crash
at the bottom of the well. Marsh
waters have long seeped in, stagnant, but never old.