I pour your espresso as though you are a guest, slide the lemon twist to spread its oil along the rim of the delicate cup, use the best china for your requisite yogurt and dates.
“Won’t you eat?” you ask me, glancing at the singular place setting.
“I ate before the light.” I say. Your eyebrow climbs your forehead, suggesting my approach to breakfast, along with the hundred other errors I make daily, is an oddity. We are wondrous in our formality these mornings.
Your hand fondles your bare head and rests there for a moment. I almost laugh, then resist the urge. A blind habit, your palm always looks like a nightcap you’ve forgotten to remove. When you were twenty-five and I fourteen, your sable hair gleamed under the Iranian desert sun and smelled of anise.
I do not laugh; you hate to look absurd.
French doors open to the chill September day, I carry your tray to the balcony. A faint scent of almonds trails from your cup as the breeze ruffles the Belgian lace cloth spread over the table. I set your meal in front of you. A hint of perfume lifts from your skin when I stoop near your cheek; its Asian spice is not mine. I back away, almost knocking over the demitasse, then recover myself.
Your lips pressed into a thin white line, you shake your head and look down as if I am a mongrel dog who has pissed the Tabriz and say, “Your toenail polish is chipped.”
The pages of your paper rustle over your belly as you clear your throat of me. I stand with my back turned and gaze five floors down to the gypsy world of the Saturday market two blocks away, its chatter of women in their rainbow of shawls and sensible shoes floats lightly on the air. They waddle through the colorful tents and stalls poised at the edge of the Black Sea bargaining for turnips and greens in a language I will never understand. An airport taxi pulls to into a space just outside the entry doors below.
I know you plan to be gone again tonight when you say “My tan suit is at the cleaners. Please pick it up before five.” I think of brown leather bags, packed with cash and hidden in the extra room.
As you take the first sip, my vision constricts as if I am sighting through a lens this moment, this place. Here on this terrace it is just you and me and the potted date palm we smuggled from Iran so long ago. Its knife-like leaves flutter shadows across the rictus of your astonished face. I turn my back on you, walk through the apartment to collect my bags. My imperfect feet and I have a flight to catch and connections we must not miss.
Published at eunoia review, 2012
©JP Reese, 2012
I wanted it to be 2007, before my husband lost
his white collar and our nest egg broke its shell against
the blind windows of Wall Street. I wanted not to feel
the clench in my guts every time the bills came due.
I wanted to believe my son, almost grown, would head
to college and enjoy the life my parents provided me.
It is 2011. My son works overnights. Mornings at seven,
I hear him climb the stairs toward his day’s rest.
If I am quick, I may catch a trace of his boy’s smile,
testing itself against an older, stranger’s face.
Published at Wilderness House Literary Review, 2012
©JP Reese 2011
The act did not begin here in this room. No. It did not
start with this rendition, this hooded man stumbling over cement.
It began instead in an airport in Boston, in a lawyer’s precision,
in a president’s fear that history would not be with him.
Bones lifted by a shirtfront, the man rises, then lies tilted, neck
arched, his world narrowed to a damp cloth that smells of dead men.
His musk lets go, dripping shamefully beneath the board
to mix with water that erases air. His breath, no breath.
His terror, all terror. Callused hands hold the ropes as he strains,
his heels kick at heaven, tendons snake along each trussed arm.
Outside, twilight falls, a desert darkens, and every belief chokes
on swirls of blood and doctrine in a place beyond a law,
without a name.
Published 2011 at Protestpoems.org, Writers for Human Rights: http://protestpoemsdotorg.blogspot.com/2011/11/jp-reese.html
Eyes wide beside you, I trace the path
of headlights from slick roadways
beyond the glass. It is 2am.
No waxing swell of moon presses
its yellow ribbons through cracks
to aid my vision. The air is weary
tonight. The streetlight blooms
over your profile, then flickers and dies.
Instead of sheep, I count the silences
between us. You turn your back to me
in sleep. My palm hovers, feels warmth
rise from your sheeted form, withdraws.
First published at Mad Hatters’ Review
The summer disappeared too quickly
and yet the light still burns the hills
these late afternoons for far too long.
Our hands grow smaller. We’ve learned,
finally, not to reach beyond ourselves.
We resemble one another
but cannot reassemble the lovers
who have vanished. Each evening,
we speak with bright razors
stashed beneath our tongues, slash
toward each others jugular, cut
new wounds to expose the blood rush
that gratifies but can never replace desire.
First published at Mad Hatters’ Review