And it came to him that the question was loneliness-

when he grit his teeth, rearranging
his bones

                and self in an easy
chair, which would,

                                      as he thought, trigger

the worry he might dial her in the middle
of the night
                    only to hang up before she answers.

Then there were the variations: the loneliness
he wore with— no, like-

               a good sweater— while he sat in restaurants
reading magazines; while he explained

his life to people he met on airplanes; what made him
stand at the window thinking, without irony,

the private autumnal heart
is the last leaf to fall …

what resolved into a fugue
of silence, counterpoint

                                                 of all he would

never fully describe. As in the night he said
he loved her: billowing stars; black leaves;
berceuse wind. A sky
of stars, leaves, and wind. He remembered
thinking, with her in his arms,

of loneliness. What should he say? That they
would spend their evenings in metaphor,

in a house of silent song? That there
would be children?

Pray, love, that it be so simple.

Copyright © 2019 by Anthony Walton. This poem was first printed in Alaska Quarterly Review, Vol. 36, Nos. 1–2 (Summer–Fall 2019). Used with the permission of the author.