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.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 40 Number 7, on page 35
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