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Love After a Long Absence (Of Love)

Elisabeth Harvor
From:   The Long Cold Green Evenings of Spring. Vehicule Press, 1997

Cold day,
too cold to snow,
and as I step into your
hotel a woman hunched up
into fox fur and expensively
fearful with fashion

pushes her way
into the revolving
door's swing with a wince.
The hard light of this city
hurts her eyes while

what's left of the world's
exhaust-fumed and exhausted
but still hurtful late-morning light

makes my own eyes go briefly
blind in the lobby's gold-clocked
and vacuumed darkness. I hurry
across its sunless interior, feel my
high-heeled boots sink and spring
in the ruby bog of hotel carpet,

try to calm myself by thinking
of practical things--the food
you said you would buy when we
talked on the phone before lunch:

cold cuts, seedless grapes,

I picture sliced skirts of ham,
hemmed by white borders of fat,
iridescent silken thin pink layers
of ham, tasting of cloves
and spiced grease.

All this an excuse for the wine
which we joked on the phone
I would certainly need.

All that tenderness for my
embarrassment, as if we were

parents and my embarrassment
our child and it gave us pleasure
to smile down at it together.

But a man waiting at the elevator
reminds me of you in some more
heartless incarnation. His glance

bleak with disinterest, he
buttons his coat all the way up to his eyes.

We rise fifteen floors together
in unmoored silence.

The shock of the new,
somebody said that about
something once--art, maybe,
but it makes me think
of you, I see you as a baby,

puffin-chested, boss-baby,
king of everyone in the sandbox.

But now the elevator doors
part for me, silken steel,
accommodating, ominous,

I find a tall mirror
that's willing to stand still for me,
damp-palmed, I smooth down my skirt,

my heart, last Thursday night
I could have sworn I saw you

kissing someone with a tall throat
in a car, you were wearing the

pristine white shirt of a
betrayer, your tie loosened,

your arm long
along the back of the seat

while your friend tilted her head back
into the shelter of your armpit,

her heart and mouth
and every part of her open,

I felt jolted sick
by what I saw (or thought I saw)
and at the same time swamped by the
memory of that heavenly

moment in cars when men become
so male, so maternal,

I hurried past the car's
mud-studded wheels, ill with desire
and envy, I was convinced that the
man in the white shirt foreshadowed our end,

I was even convinced he had to be you,
but how could he have been you,

in a car not your car,
in a city not your city,
and at that time of the night?

Elisabeth Harvor's works copyright © to the author.

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