The winter of ’77 already made its mark.
Snow flurries freckled Fort Lauderdale.
Frost after frost froze tomatoes to the roots.
Three space heaters warmed
nights barely bearable in that cottage –
not meant for more than the overnight stays
of tourists in the Fifties. For us,
the floorboards arthritic under the softest step,
tumors bulged from under the kitchen floor.
Call it a home but fleeting as Florida snow.
No reason for her to catalog the night
or tuck it away like a photo in a shoebox.
Curled in a chair, in her tan flannel pajamas
with the small print roses, hemming the hem
of her waitress whites. Canned laughter
from a sit-com on our second-hand Zenith.
Our cats sleep in the bedroom. I’m lying
on the couch, fretting about this or that bill.
Reading, my eyes skim the surface of words.
She sets her uniform aside, pours Chablis
into her glass from our nickel-and-dime carafe
on the coffee table. She looks up, laughing
at a punchline or two. I look up, too,
into a still life, into a calm like a pre-dawn calm
on a lake. Her smile. Sips of wine.
A kiss more tender than any lover’s peck.
What like a paraclete — if any— embraced
this evening? I could not say, still can’t,
nor why this night resurrects on nights like tonight.
We never saw spring. Not together. I see how
the calm sky of a hurricane’s eye seduces,
the light winds and low pressure,
the gulls and terns, circling in flocks, caged
by fair weather deceptive as half-truths.
Our horizon darkened, crept closer.
Words lashed out, flailed us in bitter torrents.
When it was over, we knew it was over.
We took what we owned, not what we had,
salvaging what we could, settling elsewhere.
Stephen Reilly’s poems appeared in Wraparound South, Main Street Rag, Broad River Review, Cape Rock, Poetry South, and other publications. One of his poems appears in the anthology Florida in Poetry: A History of the Imagination (edited by Jane Anderson Jones and Maurice O’Sullivan, Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Fla. 1995). He works as a staff writer for the Englewood Sun, a daily Florida newspaper with circulation in south Sarasota County, Charlotte and DeSoto counties.