While he talked of new love,
the ifs of his life restored
after illness, and sipped
a coffee and checked for texts,
she watched the water’s aluminum sheen
ribbon toward the island shore,
cormorants dipping like ladles
and surfacing with a pop she could
see but not hear from inside
the ferry’s enclosure.
When they got closer
she looked into windows
of houses built for water views,
drawing the measured portions
of the lives they held into her own
sense of things—as though
understanding had physical volume.
Coming up from the ferry among the locals
and other tourists, they soon found the town
something short of quaint,
the shops and banks and bakeries
pretty much like anywhere, the one
bookstore with only bestsellers on display.
Old friends hoping for a new experience,
they chose a restaurant on a marina,
and sat side by side rather than across
so each would get the same
helping of the view—the masts unmoving
in the still of an overcast afternoon,
a few lights faintly signaling (or so it seemed)
among the pines on the hillside,
a heron making its way in a muddy inlet.
Walking back to the ferry in the evening chill,
they knew they’d never have reason enough
to return to this place, which made the leaving
as sad as a paradise gained and lost
in the space of two hours.
That dessert they’d shared
and savored—and kept talking about
as the ferry pulled away, the best ever—
even that wouldn’t bring them back.
It was already a small joy preserved,
purely remembered, sharper
for being singular, the golden
pastry like cupped hands,
the ice cream melting into the blackberries
like the ferry’s wake
into the darkening sound.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 38 Number 2, on page 31
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