LAST SUNDAY, IN WINTER, A PHONY GESTURE
Unprompted, after several months apart, and while waiting
to cross a street in Alexandria, I reached for your hand
and caused considerable damage. When I touched you,
the season changed and the air thinned outward.
People breathed the air and it scraped
the inside of their lungs like sand.
Starting at fingertips, capillaries froze and cracked—
arteries dried brown and fell away
from each other like unearthed worms.
This moved inwards until everyone’s red heart
warmed only the most inner and most necessary.
For innumerable blocks, as pedestrians were in mid-cross,
all the traffic lights turned green.
In antique shops: all the milk glass shattered at once,
a brooch’s needle pierced a buyer, glue holding perfect-
bound books turned to grit and fine dust, and
in gilt frames, rain wet the sheep.
On the Potomac, seagulls on dock posts
put the other leg down, bent at the knees
and took off. At least one yacht ran out of gas.
You, wrapped in layers of cotton and wool,
could not see that where my face should have been
was only outline, a halo of stray hairs gold-plated
by afternoon. To look at the rest of me was like
looking through a bubble—only without pleasure.
Above my head was blue sky and the sun
had burned away the high clouds. But through me,
you could see across the street. A woman, leaning
into brick, saw the ATM deposit slips disappear.
Through me farther, three balloons tied to a sign
beat against each other. In the window of a restaurant,
a man held his beer by the neck and the woman
separated a mussel from its shell with a small fork.
At the next table, someone’s crab cake lost what held it
together and released itself onto the plate.
Photo by Bowen Vigus