Your spiteful smile—
flashing in the doorway—
as if my memory were metal plate.
there is time to decipher it,
but not endless time.
Lightning flashes, illuminating you.
Metal man, tin-thin,
I am unassailable,
but the imprint’s part of me:
glancing behind your shoulder,
hair half-veiling your eyes,
footsteps on the driveway.
You left the door ajar
accidentally in a rush—
I imagine you—sipping an almond steamer
at a capitol café—now that you’re far from here.
I place the drink between your palms, and script our lines:
“I love wide coffee cups: they’re so like bowls.”
“But won’t the drink grow colder, so exposed?”
You test it with your upper lip,
twirl your hair between two fingers, thinking.
With a finer memory I might see
your sculpted smile, your napkin stained with pink.
Even after we’ve agreed
to withdraw our hearts from fond imaginings,
your memory must defy you, sketching me
as vividly, in floating moments,
as any number of material things.
When she moved into the smaller house,
no yard space for a coop,
she dreamed of their palm-dense feathers.
The gift from Dolores sat on the shelf,
then laid for days on the counter.
Idly she arranged the shapes:
grey with straight edges—borders;
black ones she clumped together,
then gave up and had to return.
Each round new details emerged:
the size of the male or female parts,
the faint silver design on the black background.
Wire, mesh, a chicken coop …
of course that was Dolly’s kind of humor!
Now only hours to sort through,
configuring red pieces into crests,
bits of yellow into claws.
But was she evoking chickens only,
as though the old house and grounds could be quarantined
to molder in memory separately?
D’s sense of humor had always been odd.
Jesse Wolfe is a professor of English at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of Bloomsbury, Modernism, and the Reinvention of Intimacy (Cambridge UP, 2011) and the recipient of an award from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Wolfe is the winner of the Hill-Müller Poetry and August Derleth Poetry Contests, and his work has been published in New Millennium Writings, Penumbra, Red River Review, River Poets Journal, Henniker Review, Shanti, and elsewhere.