Momento Mori

I think, if desperation had a fragrance,
This is it: your cigarettes making the incense redundant,
The musk of lightly perfumed envelopes tossed aside without a glance,
And the lingering trace of perfume on her pillow. It’s the letters,
Though, in their lavender envelopes, that cause your eyes to tear
As you excuse yourself to the fresh air on the balcony

(Well, I’m generous in calling it a balcony;
A fire escape, perhaps an egress if I’m being kind). The city’s fragrance
Speaks of a different desperation, the reek of rubber pungent as cars tear
Down the street, making rights of way and common courtesy redundant.
I wonder what they are in such a hurry to get to, cold letters
From collection agencies, and wives who won’t spare them even a glance.

As I join you at the banister, I chance an oblique glance;
Your hands, like a gargoyle’s talons, grip the railing of the balcony
With stony tenacity. I know each night, those hands reach for those letters,
Trace the return address, and breathe in the fast fading fragrance.
I know that to tell you to forgive her would be redundant
Because you never blamed her in the first place. I tear

My eyes away from your face, pretend not to see the tears
You quickly blink away, and cast a listless glance
Across the city. Gray asphalt and horizon make themselves redundant,
And smoker’s cigarettes, like low hanging stars, glint on balconies
From the tenement across the street. The fragrance
Of gasoline and tar hangs in the air, but you think only of those letters.

The worst, I suppose, is the not knowing: Dear Johns or love letters,
Dismissal or repentance, you could never bring yourself to tear
Them open. Lately though, their lingering fragrance
Has been stifling, hanging in the air like miasma, and your glance
Returns to them with obsessive frequency. Standing on the balcony,
You reach a decision. To continue doing nothing would be simply redundant.

Your own inner turmoil would make my chiding redundant.
This is your life, your decision, your lost love, your letters;
You light the fire in a tin garbage can on the balcony,
And pluck letters, one by one, out of the box before you tear
Them in half, and toss them into the fire without a second glance.
The flames lick at the perfumed paper, and only amplify the fragrance.

As the embers cool, the fragrance dissipates; the remnants of the letters
Made redundant and set to the wind. All come to ashes, you sigh. Your eyes tear,
And without a second glance, you step inside, and leave me alone on the balcony.