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“Silence in Plague Time”
and Other Poems

 

Thomas March

Art by Marilyn Mugot

 
 

Silence In Plague Time

I have never been less concerned
by your silence. I’ve preferred it
so long I haven’t had a chance
to miss your voice. But here we are
in plague time, quarantined, alone—
or maybe not alone—who knows?—
and last night I woke from a dream—
you were driving me through Paris
along the Seine, down empty streets
we’ve only ever known on foot,
with one hand on the wheel,
the other resting on my leg,
waiting for my finger to trace
a destination on your palm.
My mind collapsed, this easily,
so many journeys into one.

At that moment, in the dark, I
thought I wanted to hear your voice
as I’d heard it through hurricanes,
blizzards, and a decade of deaths.
But who are you now, anyway?
I can’t be more alive to you
than when we last hung up the phone.
And fever’s no excuse to test
a better version of ourselves.

Without your voice reminding me
of why we never speak, I can
allow myself to think you might
be thinking of me, comforted
by what we remember saying
the last time we saw each other
clearly. It’s generous, silence.
It makes me wonder how you are—
it makes me want to wish you well.

 
 

Pigeons

I don’t mind a pigeon—
it’s not my place to mind.
The worst you could say, you
could say about a dog,

something you find cuter
or at least responsive
in a familiar way
to your own emotions.

But puppies, too, will pounce
on a wet cigarette
butt slimy with street mud
and swallow it down, whole.

We just tend to forgive
what looks us in the eye—
knowing we know it did
the most disgusting thing.

 
 

Hello, Future

Crossing the Pont des Arts, Paris, 2019

“Hello, future,” I say.
“Just say, ‘Hello, future.’”
We don’t stop, but you wave
to the camera and sing,
“Hey, future!” in that way
you sing “Merry Christmas!”
or “Hey, you!” if it’s me
when you open the door.

I imagined that day
we would watch this, after
everything we could be
had already happened.
We’d look at each other
in a comfortable room
at the quieter end
of our well-traveled life
and reassure ourselves
by telling your fortune—
that everything to come
would be worth all the rest
of everything to come.

It wasn’t innocent,
asking you to mark this
point from which we’d measure
whatever time was left.
I knew it might be sad
for at least one of us
to watch someday—sometimes
I watch it on behalf
of the future we planned,
sometimes one we might have
escaped. What if I had
stopped you there to confess
my fear—that we’d never
be happier? We could
have parted on that bridge
and never said a thing
we never should have said.

But as long as we live
in this future you greet,
there might be so much more
to say—when we’re ready
no longer to be two
idiots on a bridge
assuming it will hold.