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The sniper at work over the street corner acts.
Two girls, breathless after the dash across,
radiate heat and bouquets, as when ironing
silken delicates. With one, in place of a chignon,
goosefleshed Christmas wheat. She explodes, rages,
curses the sniper; at the window, seemingly,
I'm watching a beautiful storm. From the other, words
like a sun-umbrella's flutterings, in the morning,
on an Adriatic beach. Now and again, she flicks her head
back: just for us. As she well knows: flicked hair
sweetens the air. Beauty, always forthcoming, never
misses a half-smile. As they well know: making us happy
costs them nothing. Those half-smiles saying
you aren't just one fact among others—not at all,
not for them—even banishing the hex of that fact
if any other woman's glacial look had magicked it up.
The air smelt strongly of my distant youth
when every boulevard led to the end of the world,
when life was not yet "threadbare as a proverb."
Now they're going, leaving such tenderness in me
as engulfs you when looking too long at the heavens
into which snowflakes are swarming.
So they disappeared chattering, not girls
but breezes, blown lightly, surprisingly,
through the St. John's heat of siege. The St. John's heat
Source: Poetry (April 2008)
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This poem originally appeared in the April 2008 issue of Poetry magazine