On the Edge of the Black Forest

Mingpei Li

We went into a cathedral to steal time. You made out

like a bandit, and everyone thought it was me

who made you late. You were going to stay the night,

and didn’t. Seeing each other was still a vehicle then, a crevice

in the wall I would come to know as living

a subtly then starkly different life than the one

I shorthanded as the future, a prescription.

I drank so I could be drunk, so the kind of girl who could

drunk-dial her ex-lover could be becoming on me.

What shelter could I offer us now, so many years on

from sharing a glass of vin chaud and feeling lucky? I can’t say

we deserve any, but try: the fiat of distance, the aspirated breaths

of February, a slip-up we regret (like sound waves, separately:

you for the reverberations, me for acceding

to what I knew I didn’t have words for even as I did it).

How we burned grace clear through, a forest fire

of a solution. I often wonder about the trees,

how they could pull their shoulders back

to greet the axe coming down with something

more magnificent than resignation: they knew no life

without being felled, nor each other except as planks.


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