It Wasn’t You – Sarah Brown Weitzman

To start with the color of your eyes
I could say hazel
which would mean nothing at all
or as much as the descending spread of passion
in a sunset explains night —
darkest with dark shirts
the color of cloves when you were angry
newly turned earth
in both photographs I have of you —
hues so necessary
that when you closed your eyes
even for sleep
I felt abandoned.
But how to make some metaphor
for your mouth
which is like nothing
so perfect as your mouth
with its masculine mar
from the clarinet on your upper lip.

And were my own eyes
baroque pearls of blindness
I could see you just as clearly.
I have memorized you.  Feet, breath,
shoulders, skin, voice, hands —
I know you by heart,
every inch by inch,
hour by hour inventoried
as if I had known
I would need to reconstruct you
from memory
for the rest of my life.

I remember everything
about you — your hands
over washed, nails pared square
to the quick
drawing a cigarette from a pack
I held out to you
so slowly I felt caressed.
Your breath as clean as melon
your beige-smooth body
entering me completed me
and when I took the throbbing god of you
I thought of lightning strobing the blackness
on a moonless night
huge cast bronze church doors opening easily
deep warm clear waters,
if I thought at all.

Afterwards how deeply
you dragged on your cigarette
and watched me dress.
I wanted to be the smoke in your mouth.
How I loved your hair
falling forward over your forehead
like a boy’s but you’d comb
the bedsweat strands back into place
like a retraction
even then like a retraction.
Yet when once or more
that you loved me
or said you did
the air became fragrant
like fruit trees at the end of summer
though it was January
and even torrents of black rain
churning in the curb gutters
glistened and twinkled like sequins
on the surface of a sea.

Now memory merges with longing
for the long ago
and I remember your promises
as compelling as a pimp’s
and as wonderful.
I believed you
like the compass point believes North –
your voice like no other
even when speaking clichés
startling in their fresh power
to give fresh pain:
“You’d be better off without me.”
“I need time from this.”

But if your silence lasted fifty years
I’d know your voice instantly
on the first syllable of the first word
no, sooner — I’d know you at the first intake
of your breath even before you spoke.
This is not mere biography.
I have no theory to explain you
except that I loved the surface
as much as your soul.
But you cannot be as beautiful
to anyone else.
I have made you up
for myself.

The last time I saw you
a rice paper moon was pasted
in an indigo night sky
and I did not know
it was the last time.
But you return to me
in my dreams sometimes
and on those nights
you still love me.

Today I thought I saw you crossing the street
the way his hair curled under
his coat collar
his way of turning his head
your way.
But it was not you.
It was not you.

SBWeitzmanSarah Brown Weitzman, a past National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Poetry and Pushcart prize nominee, has been published in hundreds of journals and anthologies including Panoply, Rosebud, The New Ohio Review, Poet & Critic, The North American Review, The Bellingham Review, Rattle, Mid-American Review, The Macguffin, Poet Lore, Spillway, Miramar, etc. Pudding House published her chapbook, The Forbidden. A departure from poetry, her fourth book, Herman and the Ice Witch is a children’s novel published by Main Street Rag.