He's grateful for the thought-provoking rigors
She teaches, but feels he is at best
A dunce who takes her topics and her figures
And renders them confusing or absurd:
Earnest, he is suspected of a jest;
Ironic, he is taken at his word.
When he grows histrionic with despair,
"Is this the man," she'll laugh, "who pledged me patience?"
She'll try to muss some sense into his hair
Or kiss a brow anxieties besiege.
And, charmed, he'll almost think her ministrations
Are born of love and not noblesse oblige.
At times she'll sit and sift through draft-filled folders
And tell him what to scrap and to pursue.
He'll stand behind her and massage her shoulders
Or lift and tuck behind her ear a tress,
Intuiting in the scent of her shampoo
Art's rich and magical suggestiveness.
At other times she's snappish or remote,
And nothing he can say seems worth her heeding.
In sunglasses, head scarf, and overcoat,
She'll blankly hurry past him on the street
Or spend whole rainy days absorbed in reading,
Legs curled beneath her in the windowseat.
No use, when this occurs, to cast a look
Of longing or cry out in recognition:
She'd only drop her eyes back to her book
Or leave him in her wake, bemused and checked.
Loneliness, too, is part of his tuition,
And faith is nothing if not circumspect.
The trick is not to hound her or ignore her,
But wait with an alert passivity.
She will again, if he just listens for her,
Approach with her old warmth and, by her arts,
Temper his voice with her voice so that he
Can speak the deeper language she imparts.
Timothy Steele’s latest collection of poems, Toward the Winter Solstice, is out in the spring of 2006.