On Running Into an Ex-Lover
They shouldn’t call it small talk.
There are no small sentiments here,
rather icebergs to avoid, elephants to ignore,
issues of longing and betrayal to navigate.
I wonder, while we chat, how you keep your smile
so neutral, your inquiries so perfectly canned.
After five minutes, I want
to thrust my tongue down your throat
until your manners are dislodged,
but I am deterred by circumstance
and this morning’s regrettable choice
of sweatpants. I laugh, too loudly,
drunk with the potency of things unsaid—
lips that once touched forced to spew platitudes.
Your eyes skitter to the horizon, forgetting me.
Good-bye, I think, smiling.
When we part, we leave behind a puddle of pretend—
the little words we’ve spoken sink to the bottom,
done in by the weight we’ve asked them to carry.
First published in Alehouse, Number 3, 2009.