David Schloss

After Jules and Jim

1.  Summer, 1962, Brooklyn

M., H. and I, three friends, stayed up late
talk­ing all night before we slipped out

to the silent streets again at dawn.
As H. and I played at Jules and Jim,

wear­ing my rolled up striped trousers, M.,
in bag­gy sweater, was Catherine,

a femme fatale, thin mus­tache drawn on–
still beau­ti­ful, dressed as a young man.

Was H jeal­ous? Devoted to M.,
lust­ing for her, I shared this with him…

My father found us in the morning,
mis­un­der­stand­ing, disapproving

of play­act­ing, inno­cent fancies
con­vey­ing the trap­pings of romance:

run­ning around in sil­ly costumes
under some piti­less cos­mic gaze,

we earnest­ly desired to seem doomed
as those three sad lovers in the film.

2.  Winter, 1966, Evanston

She was preg­nant (not by me), M. wrote,
and so I took the very next bus

from Iowa to see her, to help–
to do what? To moon some more over

my lost chances with her in the cold?
Winter was one way of fac­ing that truth

on the North Shore of Chicago where
I’d felt lured, at well-below zero

when I arrived at her sin­gle room.
Too soon, we went to her friends’ party,

me, still wired; she, with­held all the way.
We nev­er were alone together

in that house of the friend she’d marry,
as pre­dict­ed by my cold nightmares.

After we left, took anoth­er bus,
I could only sit and watch, appalled

at her flir­ta­tions with the driver–
(anoth­er black driver’d “knocked her up”).

3.  Autumn, 1973, Nowhere

When I first heard the ter­ri­ble news,
I picked a stone from a cin­dered path,

like the one we’d gone down years before.
“Once I held the smoothest stone,” I wrote,

after a while, I felt we were friends.”
Unlike that stone, she couldn’t be moved.

She got mar­ried, kept the child; three years
lat­er, they moved to his fam­i­ly farm…

With all that past particularized,
I didn’t know how much pain would flow

in any oth­er way: first, to be
mem­o­rized; then, memorialized–

a blank sur­face from the start, now warmed.
Eventually, I arrived again

at her hands, come to rest before sleep–
at what we’d once been– with noth­ing left

between us but warmth, ris­ing like ash,
while my eyes stayed focused on the end.

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