She’s by the fireside. Beyond,
darkness deep and cool as wellwater.
Thick log in hand, she coaxes fire
out of white ashes, amber coals.
She says, Of course I still love him
but. Young mother, engaged to marry
next summer, speaking of
her former lover–
I’ve got a mug I brought from home.
Bitter thick brown ale
by the keg. She turns her back
to the flames, the only light here,
and her face is dark when she says, but, but.
You don’t understand what he’s like.
She’s right, I don’t, but I do
understand it shouldn’t take
so damn much explaining.
She gives up, sighs, stares
into the rustling night. Later
my lover is apologetic
for bringing up the old flame.
We stand under porchlight
beside the keg, swat mosquitoes,
whisper. She shouldn’t get married,
I say. It’s too much for a person
split in two. He hops from foot
to foot, clutching his nervous beer.
When I glance up to meet his eyes
they are, like mine, damp with pity.
I imagine the former lovers’
chance meeting by the dry fountain,
filled with the papery music of autumn leaves.
He, the poet, clutching a tattered bag
of songs written for her.
She, the mother, holding another’s
baby son upon her hip.
I can’t hear what they say.
I don’t know if she should or shouldn’t.
I only know you can’t build a fire
when your kindling is already ash.
Mary Ann Honaker holds a B.A. in philosophy from West Virginia University, a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, and a Paralegal Certificate from North Shore Community College. She has previously published poetry in Harvard’s The Dudley Review, Crawlspace, Gold Dust, Dappled Things, Hoi Polloi, The Foliate Oak, The Gloom Cupboard, Euphony, Caveat Lector, Dark Sky Magazine, The Pennon, Spark, Off the Coast, and Zig Zag Folios. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts.