I attended the reunion,
talk brisk but diluted by time.
A colleague raised his glass
to praise me, His legacy here is legendary.
Not one of us knows what I was like.
News of former colleagues, vanished friends --
this one was commended, that one was broken
by onerous obligations, and she is dissatisfied
but no longer ill.
Looking down six stories, I saw a woman
approaching the office tower across the avenue,
her right arm swinging, the other slightly bent
at the elbow, in motion yet not released,
suggesting all that remains to be done.
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.
Aloft, above cities, one encountered 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.
Crude forsakings of faces and cities –
the memory of my farewells
makes me sad, their wordplay,
so much charm, but not much else.
Yet I lived in a larger world. My worries,
paltry and ridiculous, disappeared in dialogue.
And then I was alone and pleasantly spent.
Of our buildings, corridors and moveable walls,
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.
I was adept at envisioning a world
of invention and speed,
then swiftly abandoning it for another,
until it seemed no great matter
to enter the world. To think
you are entering, earning, providing.
At the revolving door of the office tower
she paused – an extraordinary act,
a woman stopping cold like that –
making me a stranger to our past.
[Earlier versions of this poem were published in Blackbird, vol. 5 no. 2, winter 2006, and on this website. Updated here 1/13/08.]