He was a fresh-minted penny,
a riff repeated, a flower in a buttonhole,
a pond you could see to the bottom of,
a man who always knew what to say.
And even if a heron came at the darkling hour
with a warning in its beak,
he woke every morning with a smile.
She was a row of blackcurrant bushes
severely cut back, a radio switched off
so that one might hear the silence.
She was a derelict farmhouse rebuilt
to her own exacting specifications,
an impossible task necessitated by an arduous dream,
a flowering cherry tree espaliered to a barracks wall.
I picture them sitting together holding hands
as the light goes out of the day,
singing some old ballad
till the twilight takes up their song.
Once or twice comes a glimpse
of an augury awakening in the underbrush,
but they don’t see it—
these figures whispering on turret stairs
in a tower derelict and wind-bothered
as a stripe of lightning splits the sky.
Though the ink has dried on their story
and their sorrows are wrapped in a length of ribbon,
I take it down off the shelf on occasion
and summon them reanimated and fervent.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 40 Number 7, on page 35
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