The candle flame hovers,
by James Whitworth
From your eye to the door, I look, then back:
Is it farther to enter than it is to leave?
Met by a calm, untroubled glance,
My thoughts cower from attention to bare my instincts,
Naked against the white-walled void.
From within yourself you speak with economy,
Answering in syllables
As if even one were worth more than I.
In your guarded affection you chance
To cross my vision but arm’s-length distant.
Demurely the lips part for your commandments,
Recited from a stony heart,
Whose solemn nature belies its howl,
While the distance of dignity widens.
Had I been false?
Had I, in this chaos of chemistry,
Ever believed what should be would not?
I never so much as sighed
When your parted hands came together above my head,
In consecration and condemnation.
It was like your memory to forget –
To forget with cold estrangement
The necessities that once were shared.
If I had been a fool,
Or circumstance mystery,
Then would not the night have lasted?
Were I now to step aside
And explode into insignificance,
Would that cyclone circling in your eye
Die to a dull breeze?
If the process of memory called compassion
Should spread its wings and carry me home,
Still would remain, in doubt’s shadow hiding,
The curse-stung cheek
And the thistle in the kiss.