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.

Kathleen Latham

First published in Alehouse, Number 3, 2009.