Arrayed atop the vanity under the vanity mirror
are photos from infant to child to teen and beyond.
A left to right procession from younger to older,
with the latest pose not a photo
but a freshly washed face posing in the vanity mirror.
But it’s an incomplete series. There is a gap to be filled.
And in it
crow’s‑feet will claw deeper into the skin,
eyes will become droopier and body saggier
pose by future pose till the rightmost image
falls off the edge of that vanity.
I traced a cutesy “I luv u.”
She guessed its meaning before I finished.
Her eyes turned to the blue April sky outside.
We lay naked on the bed some distance apart.
Then came my turn to guess, my skin a parchment for her finger.
But she pointed to a pigeon strutting on the window ledge.
We watched till it flew away.
Then she used her nail, deep almost to hurting,
and that sharp stylus ran between my shoulder blades.
I couldn’t guess.
I asked her the meaning of her finger and flesh cuneiform,
a deciphering of those lover’s runes,
those strangely familiar three hieroglyphs.
I asked. But she just kissed my back
I asked again the mystery of those three letters.
But she covered my mouth with her outstretched hand,
turned my head around till face-to-face and smiled sadly.
Now I lie alone. No pigeon parades by the window.
The ledge is empty. My room is too.
There’s only the gray November sky.
I arch my back and turn over to where she once lay.
Then revealed like secret writing held over a flame
I recall her touch, her touch of letters,
the feel of that skin-searing word:
Richard Fein lives in Brooklyn, NY.