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How Long Will It Last

Elisabeth Harvor
From:   Fortress of Chairs. Vehicule Press, 1992


You cried.
You said you'd always wanted
to have children. As your hand
stroked my hair for what seemed like hours
I could feel the father already in it
but also the old merchant who lives
in the hand of every younger lover:

feeling the silk
stroking the pelt
feeling for thickness
asking with the shrewd
caress of a thumb
is this a good investment
how long will it last

I felt your merchant's hand
comparing my hair
to younger
hair. I ducked out from
under your hand then,
quick as a cross child
refusing consolation.

Out in the chilled hallway
we said goodbye
as if we were searching for
(but not finding)
some new way
to say it. And as if
not finding it
made us ashamed.

The city was a snowed-in tomb
of leftover Saturday night
silence for two hours after
I heard you tramp down
the stairs to the street.
At ten o'clock
it started to
snow all over

again. When I heard
the on-and-off horn
of an ambulance

making its way
down the snowfalling parkway

I tried not to imagine you
getting married,
tried not to hear
the honky-tonk of the car horns

after your wedding,
tried not to hear you stamping
the snow off your boots
outside the door
of someone younger.

I kept going
to the kitchen window

to look up at Heaven
slitting its pillows,
at all the white sky
so majestically falling

I could not bear to think,
I could not bear to think
of the future,
I was convinced
I would spend the
rest of my life
crying and undressing.



Elisabeth Harvor's works copyright © to the author.


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