The Afterlove

I

Chittering cricket in the city, wake

the sleeper eyes agog, double take;

thunder rumbling the apartment above,

rhythms and rapid moans of fumbling love.

An ashtray smouldering on the night-stand,

he takes a cigarette in trembling hand

and tries to think of nothing, traffic lights

flashing dim through the window, up the heights

and rain falling in crackling snake whispers

while he thumbs his lighter the switch hiss-purrs

and fire flashes, a tantalizing tongue;

a drag of the cigarette, his head hung

with heavy thoughts, shadows, old memories

from a former life while the ember flees

from the last bit of cigarette, his face

veiled, the light gone out from that lonely place.

The cricket chirps.  A question?  Or a plea?

He does not answer it, but silently

stares toward a photo that is face-down

of a woman with curly hair, a crown

like sunlight itself, now his world but noir,

that woman gone.  Somewhere else.  Somewhere far.

The climax above gives way to silence

he feels the throb of emptiness, the sense

that Afterlove is like afterlife: death.

It settles in.  He breathes black plumes of breath.

The Afterlove is like the afterlife: unknown

as he listens to a cricket, alone.

 

II

The carts rumble and creak, the train slowing

as it passes through the black hills, going

toward the city, and beyond the hills;

lightning flashes as she awakes; she feels

alone, the man beside her a stranger

in her bed, the wedding ring a change her

head accepted, but not her heart awake

in the insomniac country, no break

from day to day, but at night the disguise

slips off and she goes to the window, eyes

seeking the highway and that haunting hint

of what could be, what was, of what he meant

when he sent that anonymous letter

that was blank, unmarked, as if to get her

to fill it with the words she wanted said,

but which, like the wind, could never be read

except with searching fingers now the train

rattles in the black breast of the hills, rain

falling somewhere faraway, on dark glass

like the pane before her as the nights pass

to a cricket chorus among the woods

while dreamers lay beneath nocturnal hoods.

The man exhales, and rolls to his side,

but does not wake, reaching for his new bride,

clutching her vacancy; her depression;

it has been weeks since their last love session

and gloom brings rain, at last, to the window

trickling and salty, sparkling in the glow

of passing headlights along the highway

while she wonders whether or not to stay.

Her heart hitchhikes from car to truck to car,

riding the rainy road, traveling far

out to the city, to the heights and lights

while she stays here for these Afterlove nights

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