Her smooth face,
Wide and round, seems suddenly ugly.
She is too short, staring up at me
“Don’t hate me,” she pleads
but instead I am busy
noticing the gradient way black eyebrows fade
and the curious clumps of lashes—
I look at her and wonder,
How do you find the time?
Juggling three men!
One earnest, older, and far away
another infatuated and here,
And a third with whom to share your bed or an ice cream
a few times a year.
“Don’t hate me, don’t judge me!” she cries again,
“You’re my best, no, you’re my only friend.”
And I think of the one whose memory is painful
The wild one who would not be tamed,
And whose name
I used to curl around my tongue
With pleasure and possession—a name
so common it belongs to many other men
Whose introductions sour in my ears
reminding me of him,
and the dreams I have where he’s still near.
I have been unmoored since then
And perhaps too susceptible to wind and weather
To the rain and false promises of shelter.
She is waiting, I can tell.
I think of Richard, so large he could pick me up as one does a child
Micky who plastered walls, whose presence in my bed
Proved nothing in the end.
James for whom I crossed the channel, then
Sat with, sun-soaked and drowsy on the river bank
And trusted when he said
“I’ll not hurt you.”
Three men, and a solitary friend.
The lines we draw in black and white
As we grow older and more afraid
As we learn to live with loneliness and
And watch the rain
wash down the street
learn to take pleasure in a shared bowl of noodles
fishing for fortunes in moon-shaped shells of wheat.
The white tongue lazily unfurls:
“A young man will cause you much trouble this week,”
it solemnly predicts.
I laugh, for I know it to be true
and also wish it were not so.
Finally, I speak.
“I dreamed of my first great love last night
He sat naked
having burned away a finger welding an engagement ring for someone new.
And yet he pulled me to his lap and hugged me tight
And murmured, ‘What are we going to do
And I felt whole and righteous saying,
as from a height,
‘There is no us.’
But it was lies,
for I had gone to him
to feel it once again,
the improbable unity of two-in-one,
the certainty that it would never end.
But it was truth as well—there is no us.
Not with him, not with anyone.
There is only trust
And shared noodles and the fear
Of being alone
So who I am to judge or hate
The ache of trying so hard to look like we’re not trying,
not trying at all to act as though we care.”