Crossing the Line

for Maria

Sitting across the table from you

I think back to when our friendship

came down from the mountains.

It was a cold day and the miners

had not left for work.


You break a cookie in half like bread

and this sharing is what we both now need.

That which breaks into crumbs are memories.

Your gray hair cut short and you ask if I notice.


How can I tell you that Bolivia will always be

beautiful and everything I notice is you

and yes is you. Our napkins folded in our hands.

Folded as if our meeting now is prayer.


Did I ever tell you that your eyes are a map

and I would lose myself if you ever turned away


Copyright © 2022 by E. Ethelbert Miller. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 14, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I wrote this poem at The Line Hotel in Washington, D.C. It’s an outgrowth of a meeting with my friend Maria Otero who was born in Bolivia. In the first stanza, there is a reference to miners. We all struggle to mine love in our relationships. The poem focuses on the commitment required to maintain a friendship over decades. It’s about aging and acknowledging another person’s beauty and how it changes, but is forever eternal. What holds the poem together is the ritual of sharing food and the understanding of how friendship can cross the border into love.”
—E. Ethelbert Miller