Lightning Streak of White
for Florence Howe
Black streets, black sky with orchid clouds.
The tide of the day was out. Nothing more
would be carried in–not dreaded, not desired.
Sometimes there was rain, traffic lights streaked on the asphalt.
Sometimes it was spring, all the tiny leaves breaking
out of bud, pleated and tucked. The elevator,
someone with a dog or a bag of takeout, fogged with savory spices.
The doormen who knew me. The taxi. The plane.
The last time, when she begged me to come––
I can’t die without you––I couldn’t.
Nights I didn’t sleep, I’d pour a little scotch.
The deep pleasure, looking out into the dark
and the few lit windows. People
doing people things in their small frames.
Just as I was. Or rather, I wasn’t doing anything.
Time released its breath and before the next
there was a little pause. And I lived in that.
Like when you pull the tab on a zipper, the nothingness
between the teeth. She was alive.
Her heavy jewelry hanging in the closet.
Her many pairs of shoes and coats, handbags and umbrellas.
Her hair on the pillow, black with that lightning streak of white.