This is the face of one returning,
by Ron Slate
distracted by something not present.
Unreceptive to the old proposition.
Attentive, but at an angle,
to the figure of a woman walking
by the entrance of the office tower,
her right arm swinging, the wrist hinged,
the other arm slightly bent at the elbow,
not quite stationary, not released,
suggesting all that remains to be done.
I attended the reunion, talk brisk
and benign, but diluted by time.
Someone said, making a toast,
my legacy there is legendary.
Not one of us knows what I was like.
Next time I looked out the window
darkness had taken the city below.
There was the time in Sydney,
in Barcelona, São Paolo, and Rome.
Apparently everywhere I went
I said and did remarkable things.
What I recall is a slender wrist and hand
reaching for a slice of toast sliding
down the exit ramp of the toaster.
The cafeteria, a place of suspensions,
surprising postures, and revelations.
Those years improved upon dissipation.
I lived in a larger world. My worries,
paltry and ridiculous, disappeared in dialogue.
And then I was alone and pleasantly spent.
Now I realize I had been ravished
in slow motion, over twenty years.
At the time it felt like relinquishing
my life's story, as when a love affair
loses the thread of its narrative.
In those days we were aloft, above cities,
encountering women with no taste
for nonsense. I told a lady in Amsterdam
I was an astronaut, she said you're too small,
I said this is an advantage in a capsule.
What a relief to learn the local doubts
in every land, to abandon
one's narcotic notebook for a passport,
to repeat the ceremony of homecoming.
But now, it seems no great matter
to enter the world. To think
you are entering, earning, providing.
Since there are no provisions.
At the door of the office tower
she paused—an extraordinary act,
a woman stopping cold like that—
making me a stranger to our past.