The bartender stood playing with her black
Hair, combing it across bare tattooed shoulders.
Too early yet for college kids to pack
The smoky booths and beer-soaked rugs, some older
Drunks nursed the happy hour specials. When I told her
Why I’d come, she just held a Sharpie out,
And said, “The men’s room’s by the smokes,” not colder
But less surprised than you would think. The grout
And tiles were flecked like the scales on a trout
Starved in a murky tank, and, on the wall,
In black caps: my name and failings all spelled out.
I scored the marker through her words, so all
Was wiped out with my strokes. When it was done,
Our lines were sealed in that dark block as one.
It will not wash away: all that once flicked
The fine mesh of the nerves or lured my eye
As if it were a tongue to lick and lick
Her tits, the sleek recess between her thighs.
Left blinking at her absence, I have tried
To think, “If I’d done this . . .” or “If she’d just . . .”
As if this were a story, not a lie,
In which a chaptered logic tells what must,
Must not, or may, unfold. The law of lust
Knows nothing of all this; says that the shape
Our lives may seem to take—crumbles to dust
At the hot breath of chance upon our nape.
All knowledge, judgment burns within its fire;
It leaves us just the hard stone of desire.