by Michael R. Burch
Now the evening has come to a close and the party is over ...
we stand in the doorway and watch as they go—
each stranger, each acquaintance, each unembraceable lover.
They walk to their cars and they laugh as they go,
though we know their bright laughter’s the wine ...
then they pause at the road where the dark asphalt flows
endlessly on toward Zion ...
and they kiss one another as though they were friends,
and they promise to meet again “soon” ...
but the rivers of Jordan roll on without end,
and the mockingbird calls to the moon ...
and the katydids climb up the cropped hanging vines,
and the crickets chirp on out of tune ...
and their shadows, defined by the cryptic starlight,
seem spirits torn loose from their tombs.
And I know their brief lives are just eddies in time,
that their words are unreadable runes
unlikely to stand in this waterlogged land
when their corpses lie ravaged and ruined ...
You take my clenched fist and you give it a kiss
as though it’s something to be loved,
and the tears fill your eyes, outshining the night
and all the stars ringed high above ...
and you whisper, "It's time that we went back inside;
if you'd like, we can sit and just talk for a while."
And the hope in your eyes burns too deep, so I lie
and I say, "Yes, I would," to your small, troubled smile.
I vividly remember writing this poem after an office party the year I co-oped with AT&T (at that time the largest company in the world, with a lot of office parties). This was after my sophomore year in college, making me around 20 years old. The poem is “true” except that I was not the host because the party was at the house of one of the managers. Nor was I dating anyone seriously at the time.
Keywords/Tags: premonition, foreboding, time, loss, death, office party, wine, laughter, shadows