Our Forgotten Language
If I wrote this, no one would believe it—
that the night before we separated,
out for dinner in our favorite restaurant,
you bit down on a shaft of broken toothpick
lodged inside your food, after which
the pretty goldfish I gave you
swimming contentedly with his black
and white and red-speckled fins
was found floating face up
in the darkened water, like a sign
that something common or miraculous
but beautiful, at least, was about
to fade and disappear from the world.
And although we’re neither of us
superstitious beyond our paper degrees,
the only thing more obvious than these signs
was our own stupidity as we grinned
and laughed or cried and ignored them,
parting without that Hollywood
moment of clarity, when we look back
at each other across the new gulf
and recognize the love that is still there,
that we must fight and sacrifice
to defend it like the child it is—but the door
closes, we drive to different states
and have relationships with pretty fools
who do not tolerate our jokes, our tender
quirks like carefully drawn road maps
written in the language that can only we,
who are forgetting, could understand.
The Other Man
For three days, such a biblical time,
I helped you move out of your apartment
on bad ankles, hefting your dresser
and a library’s worth of old books down
the stairs, reimbursed with great sex
you encouraged me to videotape,
thinking that would satisfy my heart.
You love that I write poetry and box,
that I heal quickly from heartbreak
and can carry you easily to the bedroom
where we undress like faithful
pilgrims praising each other’s divinity.
But you also love this other man
who does theater in New York City
and shares your view on monogamy,
that intolerable fetter of the heart.
That I feel differently does not matter.
You’ve refused our world of two
again tonight, on the phone. I’ve lost
my small dream of coffee cups
steaming from our mutual nightstand.
You call me, on the way to town.
There’s a party we’ve been invited to,
but you’re not sure if you’re ready
to see me. We only just decided
that I wouldn’t ask what he doesn’t.
But I remember your dark eyes,
perfume of cigarettes in your hair
and how strangely I love it so.
Come by and see me, I suggest lightly,
You say yes because you want to
although later, feeling guilty,
you’ll accuse me of pressuring you
and forget how you felt at my door:
in love, ready to forgive anything.