When I see you in the grocery store
or on the city bus, or drinking coffee after church,
and when I greet you, there is a tiredness in my eyes
that your face reflects back to me.
I ask, How are you? and you say you are good,
are doing well, but beneath the words
is a whisper. It is my whisper
asking Are you as lonely as the leaden autumn sky?
Under the skin of our finely combed hair,
our brushed teeth, is the question of How far apart
are the bare branch at the shore and the warmth of spring?
Your winter knows my name, frozen on its sheathed tongue.
The cold doesn’t come from you
but from that great distance which even now
stretches between the beggar Lazarus
and the desert of sorrow.
What keeps me from knowing you
is as much my own doubting call
as it is the muffled echo as you shift
the coffee from left hand to right
and take a distracted sip.