They lie on beaches and are proud to tan—
climb banks in search of flowers for their hair,
change colors like chameleons and seem
indolent and somehow flat and sad.
Search out the trees for love, the beach umbrellas,
the bar, the dining room, flash as they walk,
are pretty-mouthed and careful as they talk;
send picture postcards to their offices
brittle with ink and soft with daily phrases.
Find Sunday empty without churches, loll
not yet unwound in deck chair and by pool,
cannot do nothing neatly, while in lap,
periscope ready, scan the scene for love.
Under the near leaves or the sailing water
eyes hoist flags— while handkerchiefs, between the breasts, alive,
flutter like pallid bats at the least eddy.
Dread the return which magnifies the want—
wind in high places soaring round the heart
and carried like a starfish in a pail
though dunes and fields and lonely mountain paths.
But memory, which is thinner than the senses,
is only a wave in grass that the kiss erases.
And love, once found, their metabolism changes:
the kiss is worn like a badge upon the mouth,
pinned there in darkness, emphasized in daylight.
Now all the scene is flying. Before the face
people and trees are swift; the enormous pool
brims like a crying eye. The immediate flesh
is real and night no curtain.
There, together, the swift exchange of badges
accelerates to a personal prize-giving
while pulse and leaf rustle and grow climactic.
Patricia Kathleen “P.K.” Page was born in England but raised in Canada. She is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, including The Metal and the Flower, which won the Governor General’s Award for poetry in 1954. Under her married name, P.K. Irwin, she also earned acclaim as a painter. In 1999, she was named a Companion of the Order of Canada.