A basket of scones swaddled in blue-checked cloth,
slanting floorboards, brass bedsteads, lace curtains to soften
the narrow, 19th-century view of neighboring shingles—
we had paid for quaint. The sea, three streets away,
like a giant quilt an invalid had shoved down:
low tide. We turned from the heave-ho dunes
back to the boutiques, their improbable lingerie,
leather halters, handcuffs, whips, and paper roses.
Cafes proffered espresso and Portuguese soup.
Wind sawed at chimneys, sleet buckshot the panes.
I drew you as you slept, your marred della Robbia calm,
too late for a mother to keep you from further breakage.
Next morning you drew me reading: your pencil probed
crevasses round my eyes, grooves at my mouth,
a geological survey of a glacier's retreat—
we are dying at different rates, in different lights
in a temporary décorof oak and chintz.
As I settled the bill, you melted away—to smoke,
to breathe, and appeared three brick-lined blocks up the hill
talking with a spindly stranger about his plan
to end his life, and his illness, six months hence.
A soot-bellied cloud was lifting. Did you say, "Good luck"?
Clamped in the car, we turned our backs, for now,
on the edge of that continent.
TODAY IN SLATE
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