Lovers check each other—“How are you?”—
When love is going, but before it’s gone.
“Oh, I’m better. The nausea’s settled down.
The mad howling stopped the other night.”
Some rueful laughter on the other end.
“Me, too,” she whispers, in her quiet voice,
“Me, too.” He thinks: I love her quiet voice.
“Yesterday, at the market, I saw you—”
She catches, laughs. It’s hard for love to end.
It’s hard to wake up, certain that it’s gone.
He says, “I thought about you all last night,
But I’m better. The nausea’s settled down.”
They never say that love has settled down,
That it no longer uses its sweet voice
To carry them in boats across the night.
If you deny love, love will deny you;
The nighttime of its daytime voice is gone,
As you will be. It’s hard for love to end.
But any love is difficult to end—
All endings seem to whisper, then lie down,
An old man dying by the fire, soon gone,
As if he’d never lived. Her quiet voice,
That only yesterday spoke just to you,
Will soon become a whisper in the night,
Then disappear forever from the night.
And there’s no preparation for that end.
She laughs again. “I want to be with you.”
He understands. He puts the phone back down.
How will he live without her quiet voice?
What will he do, when she’s finally gone?
Within a week the moving van is gone.
He works all day, and dreads the quiet night.
The day will come when he’ll forget her voice;
He has no need or longing for that end.
He’d settle now for keeping dinner down.
He hears again: “I want to be with you.”
He stares into the pool of night, her voice
Behind him, gone. He monitors the end:
He lies down, hears the faint refrain: “ … with you …”

— James Cummins, author of Then & Now

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Ylenia Mino

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