When desperate static beats the silence up
when the shed runs empty, and the stove
is guttering on embers dim and weak,
I reach across the table for your cup
and top it from the little left in mine
and pass it back, and neither of us speak
until I muse aloud how fast you drove
to get here by a quarter after nine.

I'd hate to think you hurried here tonight,
or tried to cross the lake in freezing rain,
"It wasn't such a thing," you brush me off,
"don't make too much of it; don't wanna' fight."
I swallow back my worries, mollified,
until you shuffle awkwardly and cough,
a noise like branches on the windowpane.
"I told you don't," you bark, and I subside.

A dimness folds around us, and the cold
defies all your bravado, and I see -
no longer kept at bay by firelight -
the careful way you hunker in and hold
the saucer and the cup, like they might fall
and like you struggle keeping it upright.
"I always said I'd come, if you should call,"
you sigh, "just like you'd do the same for me."

You say it like it matters anymore.
You say it like you trust it to be true.
A shadow of forgiveness creeps in slow
before the dawn, across the cabin floor.
The static rises to an awful din
and I switch off the busted radio.
I can't stop meeting all these ghosts of you
in every single room you aren't in.

Iron Noder 2021, 2/30

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