For Paul and Maxine
It is the precise
moment between the given
and the unknowable—
the slip of time that, like an island,
juts into view, announcing its strangeness
before we know what is to come.
We sit, the four of us at a table
in a crowded restaurant on a clear spring
day and in the pause
before the words tumble fast from my friend’s mouth,
I feel a sudden pull toward
an inevitability that must be someone else’s, and yet
The brief silence before words
is when the true knowing occurs—
amid the gleam of sunlight on silverware,
the white of the starched tablecloth,
a worry intrudes
like the stealth slide of something in the grass,
a subtle dawning of knowledge that gains
ground and changes everything.
The calm before the storm
is not really calm at all, but is filled with a stirring,
a gathering force
that is its own dread.
And so, when the words do come
on that plain blue day,
and our lives are no longer what we thought they would be,
the folly of certainty
in our new given of each tiny unknown.