Charles Clifton
After Twenty Years
(for Gladys)

Song made in lieu of many ornaments
With which my love should duly have bene dect

What could be left to give or get?
If you open the palm of your left hand
will it reveal a tiny, infinite secret,
sticky and wet as a child's bon bon
or the pink engine of your heart?
And in your right hand, behind your back,
is it the fish that ate the wedding ring
that fell off my finger one day in San Berdoo?
It must be, for I hear it fish-whispering
at night, the three of us in one bed:
"I have been kept alive by my longing."
Meanwhile your son sleeps, his mustache
seething with the hot breath of the pampas,
your daughter's face slides off the mirror
and you dig it out of your pocketbook,
wipe it gently with a balled hanky.
You'd like a ticket, perhaps, to ride back-
wards on that train you miss each night,
whimpering into your crumpled pillow
as the figure of your father recedes
into distances of corn, green and gold,
"Wait, Daddy! Don't leave without me!"
But I want to give you something serious,
permanent--my toes and fingers, tightly
furled around the bones, banners of our
whereabouts, some things you can count on.