No Picnic

It is not the way anyone said

it would be

You did not lose your head—

instead, you grew more certain

of all you already knew

& she who

was never less a mystery

became more           a recognizable truth,

a given of your own life's ardent & impossible proof

that could not be completed,

& yet had

become     (quietly) complete

A great deal happened without sound,

or so softly that its subtlety surprised you

Frequently, you found

yourself without words,

unable to name this patient, pervasive influence

Also, you became aware how people

are prone to mis-naming—

how sometimes a disgruntled voice will pronounce,

"It was no picnic"

as if the absence of the picnic

                    wrought from its emptiness

                                                     a cavern of inexpressible pain

Yet picnics so often fail to live up to their Platonic ideal

How well you knew this—

the sticky heat,

the sticky bread,

the insects settling

on skins & sandwiches,

the never-see-it-coming storm

that sends you running for cover     (but never soon enough, & always drenched, & salty, & sad)

Sometimes the "no picnic"

is the real blessing—

is a plate of blueberries, almonds, aged

Wisconsin cheddar,

a modest bottle of wine—

in bed,

before or after the preposition of longing that leads to the bed,

the flickering cable station in the lightning storm

while you are inside,

wrapped up in each other,

warm & dry,                (but not too warm)

Though you have the basket with its cross-hatch handles

& the red-&-white-checkered cloth,

& though she did once bring you—between the afternoon's

ardent & impossible showers—

in Pittsburgh, of all places,

a chilled pasta salad & a whole thermos of hot coffee,

the ceramic boat Saran-wrapped & brimming with cream,

& though you sat together in Panther Hollow back from the road

watching the purple heat rise in clouds that did not afflict you—

did not even recognize you were there—

but trailed off  like the day's long ellipsis . . .

You knew this picnic was an ancillary blessing    &  not

the essential one,     & this,

you realized—head propped on your cool pillow—

her body warm    (but not too warm)       beside you in the languid dark—

you recognized that this was the ardent, impossible secret of love:

the ancillary picnic,

even  (sometimes)  the anti-picnic,

& once in a great while,

the cross-hatch basket

                                          & the clearing far back from the road

Copyright © 1999 – 2024 Juked