Billet-Doux

For S. S.

She reads by the light of a guttering candle
and likes the feel of each page's gilt edge
as she lifts it slightly at the corner, readying

herself to turn it. If the wind whips
the sycamore branches outside her window,
if her nightgowned shoulders shudder once

from a sudden chill, so much the better,
and the book must tell of children toiling
for bread and pennies in a textile mill,

or tender brothers doomed to sharpen
their bayonets in opposing armies,
or a family of refugees, dust

in their mouths, gazing with longing at the far
shore of a river. And I long only
to be the author of that book she reads

whose page glows from the same dim
flame that illuminates her face,
the author whose thought she contemplates

as she touches a fingertip to a word
to mark her place and turns her head
toward the kettle that has begun to whistle.

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