Thorn Field by Claire Askew

Aug 22, 2018

Tomorrow he’s leaving for good.
You know where he’s going, but don’t
belong there – couldn’t show up
without scaring him.  So
it’s your last chance.  So
what if he’s married?
Your heart walks past the shopfront
fifty times without going in.

Your head drives you to the beach.
There’s a spitting easterly.  It’s February,
two degrees, the dunes filled up with snow.
You write his name in the coffee-coloured sand
and the sea licks it up.
Of course he’s married.  You palm
a good head-stoving rock, then chuck it.
White wave-tops blow sideways out of range.

The town’s rinsed out.  Somewhere
a clock is wrong – the streetlights on
in daylight. You tell yourself it was just
three times, and the first time doesn’t
even count – you don’t know
his last name.  You wonder
what his wife looks like,
then can’t stop.

Night comes without stars.
He locks up the shop for the last time.
The tide is dragged out by its skirts,
your thrown rock dumped in the ebb.
The clock chimes last-chance,
 – his smile
like a chipped axe gleaming. Above him,
all the streetlights go out.

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