A friend leans to tell you at lunch
as you two push coins across the table for the bill
like generals plotting troop movements in a windowless room.
A moment, the barbed wire of a painful sentence,
a beloved’s sad breath in your ear,
and you’re forever changed.
This is a grave gift she gives you.
It’s a hailstorm spreading to fresh fields,
a knife that will wound two with no loss of edge.
A towline from the plague ship,
and you bend your back and pull without a second’s thought.
It becomes part of you and dances in your capillaries
even after the orchestra’s gone home for the night.
Just when you suspect your mind’s a kitschy gallery
of shopping lists and half-remembered movies,
it shows itself like a bright, framed Guernica
and stuns the senses. It’s an awful treasure chest
whose map each of you carries half
so that it might be never found.
It’s the house where she’s ready to live
in hard and humble quarantine,
to which your love says: No. Never.