Prize in Memory of Marie Bullock, 2017

To a Lover, Miles Away

by Sanam Sheriff
 
Another sky opened into a black 
umbrella. Your face dimly lit 
across a tall ocean. I’ve been counting again-
Each day a petal and a bouquet
between us. No vase. Night falls 
for memory and there you are 
again: fingers passing through your hair
like a season. Plane ticket crushed 
in the front pocket of your denim shirt. 
Vision blurs. There is no after-
only yesterday’s shadow falling 
forward. The almost of your smile 
on a stranger’s face. A trick of light.
And what is the mouth but an open 
grave? Your name a dead, dangling
thing. Coffee on the stove and its steam rising
from the ghost of your fingers. No rain. 
Nothing to dance to but your absence
filling the room like a song. And what is longing
but breath spooled into a prayer?
Each lung filled with time 
and time again. Winter chews 
through all the good yarn and I stay curled, 
as you would say, into a seed. The telephone
a warm palm against my cheek, 
and your silence limping through it.