Like a cliché or a bad joke.
In a bar.
Where they recognize
but cannot name each other until
it is too late. For the vulnerability,
You know the rest.
The vulnerability becomes more himself,
soft as a fontanel.
The provocation likewise expressing
Until – at the same moment —
they accomplish what, without confession,
they set out to do.
And then want a cigarette,
or a joke about a cigarette,
which the provocation tells,
a two-line gag:
Do you smoke after sex?
I don’t know; I’ve never looked.
The vulnerability laughs, though
he would have preferred tenderness.
Already, that sinking feeling is
descending, like a cloak: One night
is never enough, and
always too much.
Meanwhile, the provocation is
hitching up her trousers, lacing
on her shoes, oblivious to the vulnerability’s
reawakened loneliness, acute.
Which cries out, inevitably, as accusation:
You implicated me!
But the provocation is not having it.
You wanted it, she calls back, already
halfway out the door.
And it’s true, the vulnerability must admit,
but still painful, that
the provocation is like that —
Bogart tossing a trench coat
and a few words over the shoulder as
they part: Here’s looking at you, kid.
She’ll always have Paris.
But the vulnerability is Bergman:
He’ll always be losing it, and
looking for you, kid, always
looking for you.
The title says it all. Naked vulnerability. “It is too late. For the vulnerability anyway.” So true.The middle of the poem … when the Provocation is preparing to leave and you describe how the Vulnerability feels … starts to feel … uh, so good.
Thank you, Rafiki. This one came out of left field, but it was alternately fun, scandalizing and sad to write. I think you and I and the vulnerability understand each other.
What a lovely homage to Ingrid Bergman and Humpfrey Bogart. Loved Casablanca and other movies with these great actors. I admire how you have put all these words together with such delicacy, sensuality and tenderness. Your language is elaborate and you have a great detail for observation. Great poem!
You honor me with the care of such close attention. Thank you so much!
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You are welcome. This is really a very nice poem.
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