Souvenir - Beth Ann Fennelly

Though we vacationed in a castle, though I

rode you hard one morning to the hum

of bees that buggered lavender, and later

we shared gelato by a spotlit dome

where pigeons looped like coins from a parade--

we weren’t transported back to newlyweds.

We only had a week, between new jobs,

we both were pinched with guilt at leaving Claire.

When, in our most expensive, most romantic meal,

you laid your sunburned hand upon your heart,

it was just to check the phone was on.

 

When the trip was good as over--when the train

would take us overnight to Rome, the flight

would take us home--I had the unimportant

moment I keep having.  I wonder if

we choose what we recall? 

                            The train

was unromantic, smoky.  We found a free

compartment, claimed the two bench seats, and eyed

the door.  Italians who peered in and saw

your shoes, my auburn hair, our Let’s Go: Rome,

soon found another car.  And we were glad. 

But then, reluctantly, two couples entered,

settled suitcases on laddered racks,

exchanged some cautious greetings, chose their spots.

Then each one turned to snacks and magazines.

The miles scrolled by like film into its shell.

Night fell.  Each took a toothbrush down the hall.

Returned.  Murmured to the one he knew.

The man beside the window pulled the shade. 

We each snapped off our light, slunk down until

our kneecaps almost brushed.  And shut our eyes.

 

Entwined I found us, waking in the dark.

Our dozen interwoven knees, when jostled,

swayed, corrected, swayed the other way. 

Knuckles of praying hands were what they seemed. 

Or trees in old growth forests, familiarly

enmeshed, one mass beneath the night wind’s breath.

Or death, if we are good, flesh among flesh,

without self consciousness, for once. 

                                       Husband,

five years husband, you slept, our fellow travelers

slept, scuttling through black time and blacker space.

As we neared the lighted station, I closed my eyes. 

Had I been caught awake, I would have moved. 

 
© Beth Ann Fennelly
 
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