Susan R. Williamson: Two Poems
Perfect Score | Why, In the Restaurant, Our Bodies Were Humming
You learn early, when the teacherís voice rattles
to a stop, and she looks up over her glasses, past
her nose, hand in mid-air, eyebrows raised, expects
the class to fill in the missing phrase. All the voices
chime with what it is that fits. You get the piece of paper,
line drawn mid-sentence, mid-chained alphabet, a perfectly
lettered hand. Whatís wanted here, clearly, is to fill in
the blank. So you take your crayon, or pencil, steady #2,
mark down what you think belongs, what your little head
imagines makes each of the pieces fit together. Sometimes
the teacher, with red pencil, marks your answers wrong.
Any wonder, when, years later, at last you touch, when
your bodies come together, and waves like undertow, suck
away the sand underfoot, how this training comes in handy.
His words fall flat, but when the magic drags you out, it isnít
hard, is it? To fill in what is really missing tell yourself if
you get this right, youíll pass with a perfect score even
if empty spaces still need answers, this test you yourself
have created, bones and flesh, a touch, musical
words to fill this open-mouthed blank.
Why, In the Restaurant, Our Bodies Were Humming
Not for the usual reasons, but for those too:
counterpoint of pheromone, ritual frictions,
the near imperceptible brush of your finger
against mine as the bread was passed from
one to the other at the table, and then,
all I could see were centerpiece flowers,
petals and fronds swirling in a candlelight blur.
I couldnít even flinch when a sparkle of lemon
squeezed over a plate reached my wrist,
its fragrance of sunlight suggesting other fruit
things that swim, blue-green mists of a wave
as it limns hard sand or sun-baked skin.
You canít ask me to blame the menu, or
the vintage wine. I always leave that choice
to you, trust it will be an exquisite pairing.
Donít say itís because of the thousands of words
weíve used, written down alone, whispered
to ourselves to each other, under the wide
light-pricked night, more often, an ebony canopy
of dark melodies stretched out between us.
Itís not due to the emanations of the same
luminaries we see, from opposite directions,
presiding over the miles. Say instead, it is because
we were once, long ago, mysteriously tuned together,
taut strings bowed by silver moonlight that we
played a rare music left behind in Eden
before anyone had the slightest idea
of what it was possible to lose.
Susan R. Williamson serves as associate publisher of Tupelo Press and is
editor-in-chief of Streetlight Magazine. She works at the University of
Virginia and lives in Charlottesville. Previously, her work has appeared
in Lucid Oona, Lumina, Streetlight, Lagniappe, and LINK, as a prize winner
in the U.Va. Medical Center poetry competition.