Don’t Slap My Face

It was in late summer,
the last time I would ever see her.
I came to the city for a few days—
the city where I grew up, the city where I met her,
the city I left after everything in my life went so badly,
including my relationship with her.

She wanted badly to see me
and carved out a few hours before work one day
to come to my hotel.
She was very late and when she arrived I kissed her
and it felt so familiar, so comfortable.
We went to a late breakfast,
then came back to my hotel room.
We knew what would happen next—
we didn’t speak about it but we knew.

Just before we started to tear into each other
she instructed,
“Don’t slap my face.
I just went to the dentist and I have a bad tooth.”
I didn’t think anything of it and I obeyed,
even though in the middle of it
I’d kind of lose myself in the moment
and then remember not to do it.

That was the last time I saw her,
the last time I will ever see her.
I came to find out much later
that she was probably back with her husband
the day of our last dalliance
and if I knew that at the time
I never would have invited her over.
I certainly wouldn’t have touched her.
Her husband she despised—
the man she said she would never touch again
although I had caught her in that lie already,
years before.
This belief I hold now—
that she asked me to be gentle
not because of a bad tooth but
for fear I would leave a trace of our last moments
on her face
(I had never once slapped her hard enough
to leave a mark)
has ruined my last memory of her.

I wish our last encounter never happened
or, if it had to happen,
I wish I would’ve forgotten myself
and slapped her one last time.

Dusk to Dark to Dawn

The darkness comes quickly and easily—
A vapor of insouciant inevitability swarming, permeating
The susurrus of leaves swirling and
Giving way to the crickets and the frogs
All searching in the new night for a mate
With their unceasing elemental music

And in a just few hours the only sounds remaining
In this room
In the late moments where nothing should be moving or making noise
Will be my congested breath
And the faucet in the bathroom
With its drip drip drip drip drip
As I will look with insomnolent eyes toward the far curtain
And the largest window
For the inevitable penetration
Of the next excruciating dawn.

The Turkey Vultures

I notice a turkey vulture in a tree across the road
When I leave my house to take a walk.

When I look up at the sound of his wings
That rustle the leaves in his impatience he looks
Right at me.

Looking farther up I see two more vultures circling,
Their magnificent paper-fan wings against the sun.

A fourth vulture has found a spot on the limb of a tree
That sits just ten feet from me. I look up at him.
He looks back.

My heart beats faster, my eyes scan in all directions.
I don’t dare look up at the two soaring birds for fear

They too are now roosting or there are even more of them now.
Then I see the roadkill in the road and the fear ebbs like a plug pulled
On a drain.

I think it’s a rabbit but I can’t tell for certain.