Joy Harjo

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Souvenir

Though we vacationed in a castle, though I
rode you hard one morning to the hum
of bees that buggered lavender, and later
we shared gelato by a spotlit dome
where pigeons looped like coins from a parade--
we weren’t transported back to newlyweds.
We only had a week, between new jobs,
we both were pinched with guilt at leaving Claire.
When, in our most expensive, most romantic meal,
you laid your sunburned hand upon your heart,
it was just to check the phone was on.

When the trip was good as over--when the train
would take us overnight to Rome, the flight
would take us home--I had the unimportant
moment I keep having. I wonder if
we choose what we recall?
The train
was unromantic, smoky. We found a free
compartment, claimed the two bench seats, and eyed
the door. Italians who peered in and saw
your shoes, my auburn hair, our Let’s Go: Rome,
soon found another car. And we were glad.
But then, reluctantly, two couples entered,
settled suitcases on laddered racks,
exchanged some cautious greetings, chose their spots.
Then each one turned to snacks and magazines.
The miles scrolled by like film into its shell.
Night fell. Each took a toothbrush down the hall.
Returned. Murmured to the one he knew.
The man beside the window pulled the shade.
We each snapped off our light, slunk down until
our kneecaps almost brushed. And shut our eyes.

Entwined I found us, waking in the dark.
Our dozen interwoven knees, when jostled,
swayed, corrected, swayed the other way.
Knuckles of praying hands were what they seemed.
Or trees in old growth forests, familiarly
enmeshed, one mass beneath the night wind’s breath.
Or death, if we are good, flesh among flesh,
without self consciousness, for once.
Husband,
five years husband, you slept, our fellow travelers
slept, scuttling through black time and blacker space.
As we neared the lighted station, I closed my eyes.
Had I been caught awake, I would have moved.

Beth Ann Fennelly

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