I am the first page of a well-loved novel,
But often the first one ignored,
Dog-eared and transparent at the corners
From the touch of one too many hands
And witness to the enterprising twist of a smile
As my readers are privileged to only pieces of me.
You, like the binding that surrounds me,
Enclose and encircle all that I am. Write a novel
Under my skin. I’ve falsified too many smiles,
Sacrificed even the best of myself for ignorant
Delusions of caressing hands
That take and abuse my corners.
The used bookstore on the corner
Of Middlebury Marbleworks, Otter Creek and window-origami —
My salvation and river-penance. Seek my story with hands
That feel to comprehend, with novel
Softness and a tenderness that ignores
My pleading glances and indecisive smiles
As you speak in hush-whispers. Smile
With your eyes as you touch my spine — corner
Me at the exit. I want you to ignore
Faults, make peace with flaws that inhabit me
Like poetry misplaced within a novel,
Or willow branches falling too low, tired hands.
I memorized the shape of your hands
The first time we danced to Chaplin’s “Smile,”
And wrote on the broadness of your shoulders a novel
Of my sins, apologies stretching to your corners
In villanelles — repeating refrains. It took all of me
To tell you what I could no longer ignore.
Because once you start to ignore
Conflictions that exist in the nerve-endings of your hands,
What you feel becomes a burden. For me,
Sand ran out of the hourglass when our smiles
Stopped touching — and at the corner
Of Maple Street and Printer’s Alley, I said goodbye, our novelty
Gone. Still, I find it hard to ignore what used to be when you smile
As you look at her, your hands on her back in the corner
Of the room. You remain my unfinished novel.