Nights I’d get drunk alone on the cement balcony
in the pinkish apartment complex; walled in on three sides
and the trees grew just level with it in a reaching green hurry,
they were too green for such little water, and they darkened fast
before even the sky fell to dark. I couldn’t stop it.
Two keeling birds were often there
wheeling above the telephone wires, caught together
like I’ve seen before with people, parting only to merge again
with more conviction and less restraint, and the public storage sign flickered
orange and white somewhere south, down the hill,
blossoming in what could be called the background
if it had been a painting, and if it had been
then the history was laid bare directly before me, clarifying and still.
Instead I saw your face sometimes, sometimes the motion of your hands,
and I saw the men in that dark bar, the tenders cleaning glass
and pouring drinks, making room for one another in the narrow space
behind the counter. And sometimes someone would be playing music,
the diminished notes lifting with the persisting sound of fingers
sliding over the tin-plated steel strings of the instrument.
Not the music so much as what must, necessarily happen
beside it, the effects that accompany something made that way.
There in the narrow space beside your absence,
final daylight, other sounds.
Genevieve Payne reads “Other Sounds”
Genevieve Payne received an MFA in poetry from Syracuse University, where she was the 2019 recipient of the Leonard Brown Prize. Her recent work can be found in Colorado Review, Nashville Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and The Adroit Journal.