The Society

you were there and you remember
how it was: that high room with the tall chairs
and bar and open windows

she was there: standing at the window,
taken by the sunset's glory.
when night settled in velvet folds she would be ours;
'til then she was just a small soft smile, a murmured reply,
a curve of close-cropped head, a sip of somber wine,
and a faraway gaze brimming with beheld beauty. you remember

he was there too, broad-grinning champagne,
leaping from group to group with a tongue
long enough to precede him with a pun or burst of wit
and his brother also: who aside in stillness and silence would keep
the spirit of our gathering as well as any

you remember what it was like when they were all there,
that feeling of coming home
after a long campaign, wanting toast and eggs

our bellies would be full with harbored joy, with weary laughter
our mouths with smoke and red herrings
we would speak for love of words
and hear for love of the rhetorician
and we only lied when we were silent

you were there and you remember
clouds reflecting on the hardwood floor before the windows
just before dark, and the crystal glinting on the tables
in the moonlight as we left
in the dark, smudged platters like palettes with steel-handled brushes lying beside
and two left behind dancing to quiet music

when we returned the candles were lit and their ghosts were in the panes
opinion and oratory created unity
our perhaps unsympathetic symposium burnt
what could not earn its place using the empty aspersorium beside the bar
but our short shelves were deep, and doors hidden behind
gave way to whole rooms of thirst and thought

and this was our business:
there the world was ordered and what it brought forth we named
what it teemed with we named
what it separated we named
to the clink of glass, the rustle of paper, the lolling of tongue
clumsy, black-thumbed gardeners
culling the firstborn like angels of death.

We were there and I too
complicit in what we did and what we decided
and what we divided; in that high open room shaking off our dust
as if forgotten oddities in an attic had finally come alive
to reconvene at the witching hour, if it were known,
and compose under our nom de plume
in a place with no wall that bore a clock,
and a small pile of watches in the anteroom all ticking alone
like a mound of baking soda waiting for vinegar
like unfollowed dreams
like the aftertastes of wine and wit when dawn glimmered beneath the stars.

Never was often enough, yet oftener would have broken hearts
and though we yawn we also yearn, as cats do
and we are all ever-pregnant with pretenses of busyness and lives to see to,
other troubles to quiet in other places

but you were there;
you remember.

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