Just another love story

Tell me how it all began, she asked again

as she paused, spoon over cup,

dripping coffee unseen.

She turned to look into the night

street lights dancing in her eyes

and laughed, not at something I said –

I said nothing at all, nothing of consequence –

perhaps it was someone at another table

or maybe she was laughing at the thoughts in her head

she did that, from time to time.

The cafe’s jazz played on, sugar-laced,

stepping surefooted across curling smoke,

and I knew then that I would not tell her

what she wanted to hear,

that I would keep watching her watching the street

plying her with dressed up desserts and coffees and easy smiles,

feeding myself on vain hopes that she would not slip away,

slip out into the night (though I knew she would, one day).

No, I would not tell her the story she wanted to hear,

nothing of the easy nights we’d spend together,

or the hard days, youthful angst tearing at our hearts.

I would not say that from the beginning, it was already ending,

that her path and mine had already begun, over coffee,

their wide divergence.


Two Bicycles at Night

There was freedom in that night
riding our bicycles out
through the dark
(no lights)
like the wind
careening around corners
fast and fresh as could be
past sleeping houses
their windows dark, agape
with only the stars and
near-full moon overhead
as our witnesses.

You taught me to breathe
as we played at youth
anonymity cloaking our folly,
our age.

through all the tomorrows flowing
from that night
threads a seam of mirth
a twinkle of mischief
of you.





I thought I heard you call my name

Curtains billow, stirring the room’s stagnant molecules, dissipating flower perfume, caressing skin. Perched on the windowsill, I gaze out at the rushing river, watching the happy, hazy stars twirling across its surface. Dizzily, they spin in time with my heart’s own ecstasy.




The Key

The key lay on the sidewalk, cold silver glinting in the winter sun. Something–hope, or fate?–prompted me to pick it up. Turning it over in my hand, I wondered only half-mockingly if it was supposed to be the key to my future, my past, or maybe the key to your heart.

Most would say it was pure superstition to imbue an inanimate object with that much significance. I wish I could agree with them.

That little bit of metal weighed heavily in my pocket for weeks. I could feel it, heavier than it should have been, as I walked to work and home again, as I did the groceries and popped out to lunch with friends. And, each Tuesday as you and I walked arm-in-arm down the snowy streets to that little bar on the corner, I could feel it pulling one side of my coat down just a bit more than the other.

Did you notice? You never mentioned it if you did, and you were always so perceptive when it came to symmetry – or the lack thereof.

It began to feel like the proverbial albatross, but still I carried it. It was there in my pocket that night, our last Tuesday as it turned out. The streets were unusually slippery and thick with snow as we picked our way past shopfronts and other pedestrians, you ahead of me for once instead of by my side. I kept looking up into the orange glow of the streetlights, watching the thick snowflakes as they fluttered in and out of the halos. I was trying to hold back the tears.

Yes, I knew it was over even before you said anything. People feel these things.

We reached the bar and you went straight down the narrow stone steps and disappeared inside, leaving me to make my own way down carefully, alone. You were clearly on a mission. When I finally stepped into the dim, faded red ambience of the place, you were already at a table. I noted it wasn’t our usual corner; that had already been taken.

“Something has changed.” You launched into it without preamble the moment I sat down. I thought briefly that you were talking about the seating arrangements rather than us.

“When? When did it change?” I remember asking. I wanted a day and a time.

You looked at me then, curious, like you suspected I knew something. Sighing, resigning yourself to the truth, you gave me the day, and her name.

It was you, not the key, you and the weakness of the human spirit, that made all this happen.

And yet. And yet, the date you gave me was of course the same day that I found the key.

I don’t know why we bothered going through the motions that night, ordering our drinks and our dinners. We sat there for hours, hands wrapped around our individual glasses, staring in silence, oblivious to the other lives, the other dramas, unfolding in front of us.

I don’t go back there now. I wonder sometimes if you take her there, if you sit at our table.

I still carry the key, though. I’ve started looking around for a possible lock it might belong to, a possible life I might belong to. I can’t believe that finding the key was accident, and I won’t believe that it was only a catalyst for our end. It isn’t the key to your heart, but maybe it is the key to my future.

That Night You Wore Velvet

image source: divinity.wfu.edu

Do you remember that night, when the church’s bell
fell silent in the square, when the street light
went out — the night, I think, that you wore velvet?

We danced right there and our feet transformed the snow into crushed velvet.
Sometimes magic happens, you whispered, like a bell,
whether it tinkles or clangs, it reminds us to keep our hearts light.

I have followed you since then, my guiding light
through the days when the darkness closes in thick as velvet,
days when my heart feels as dead as the silent, leaden church bell.

We mark our months and years the way a bell rings down the hours, moving instinctively between light and dark and back again, but my heart still skips a beat whenever you wear velvet.




It’s a tritina slam! Thanks to Rowan for my three words: bell, light and velvet. Click on the badge to read more tritinas, poetry and short fiction.