Touching your face, I almost touch my own,
skin stretched tightly as a surgeon’s glove
worn in the pulse and flush of the operation.
Once, laughing and talking with you,
at an outdoor cafe where people sat at tables,
two by two, I saw pain’s pentimento
suddenly bleed through your face and rise
like a bruise to cloud clear eyes—
just as the sun slipped into a hole in the sky—
the face behind the face no face I knew.
Too soon time’s features will reveal
a bare hill of cheekbone, windwarped sockets
of stone my eye must climb to see the I I am,
a mouthhole shaped around a breathless song
I cannot bear to sing, to sing
for very long: Where have the stars gone?
Why am I here? How long before the others come?
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 5 Number 4, on page 49
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