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Intimate tables. White linen coverings. The room, a checkerboard against the mahogany floor. Cozy nooks for two sit poised for the evening crowd, set against the wainscoting of one wall, a length of crystalline windows above.

A place setting removed, she sits alone, the amber light of her wine an imposter for the last shards of daylight that poke from behind a ridge.

She swirls her wine clockwise. Something to do with progress, he said. Or she read that somewhere. She can't remember which.

She finishes and turns the stem of her glass slowly hoping to leave an impression in the cloth, when a voice says, "May I join you?"
he found the bench where they always sat,
the one near the pond’s edge where the ducks

would swim close to shore, swim almost near
enough for one to reach out a hand to feel the

soft down, the way she always tried to do, and
when the weather turned gray and the skies

opened wide she would laugh and lick the rain
and say this is duck weather and we’re not going

anywhere either, and now that she is gone, and
he stretches a long bony arm across the top of

the bench to embrace an empty space, he hopes
for dark clouds so that he can tilt his head and

feel the drops upon his lips and
open wide for a mouthful of rain
the battle rages,

terror, death, grief,

the witness immobile, inconsolable

until the bearers of courage and kindness,

their selfless acts the true thieves of breath,

become the grantors of tears,

of sorrow, of joy,

of humanity

Rise and be heard.

Rise and brandish your resolve.

Rise to fend the jackboot of oppression and

the black hand that seeks to cover the sky.

Rise to keep the warm sun upon your face.

Rise and continue to breathe free.

for Ukraine
There are times I turn to the river,

when life roils and churns like the rapids,

and I remember what the river has always

known when it heaves and ebbs, and runs

swiftly by, carrying broken branches just

as abraded stones appear as polished gems
And on their happiest days,

they smiled with a broken heart
She sat down at the table across from him. She straightened her shoulders and spoke in a clear voice. “What are you reading?”

Startled, he looked up at her. He hesitated, then slowly closed the book, exposing the cover.

Her head down, she said nothing, only fiddled with a pen lying on the table, spinning it slowly.

“Who are you?” he asked.

She raised her gaze to meet his. She smiled. “I’m here to change your life.”
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