Not the Song, but After
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Now everywhere the pageantry of youth
is on display:
The squeal of bike chains spinning through the gray
plays fugue to puddle-froth;
The punctual blitz of hyacinths in April
with lavender dripped from the upturned wing
of wind-swept Gabriel.
A youngish pair walks wired at the arms—
she casually ribbing
him, he lightly brushing her breast, jibbing
their step to spare the worms
stranded along the road. Too soon, their laughter
rises and goes
drifting toward silence. And now the young man knows
love’s not the song, but after—
like the mute, remembered chorus of the rain
that stains the walk
long after falling, or the lifeless stalk
still hoisting its head of grain.
Uneasy now, she loosens from his hand.
Their dark familiars
stare back, reflected by the passing cars,
with speechless reprimand.
Before the chill, each chartered hell grows hotter,
yet every burn
will teach him how to run—and how to turn
her wine back into water.
This poem first appeared in PN Review.
Source: Poetry (November 2012)