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When I First Met Your Mother

Maybe it's hard for you
to imagine I ever loved her,
that one day I watched
from across Third Avenue
as she rolled her apron and tucked it
in her coat pocket, looked up
and down the block for me
then lit a cigarette and let
her head drift up and away
as if hearing Marvin Gaye—
she always lost a little
gravity listening to "I Want You."
I finished my beer without
calling out, just watched her
wait for me from across the street,
her shift over at last
and the hours already
beginning to narrow.
But that was later, years after
I walked into a room
in Armstrong Hall,
settled my papers
on the desk and looked up:
there was Before Your Mother
and Everything After;
the everything started then.
When I first met your mother,
she wore a man's silk shirt
over a camisole, and the sort of
flowing pants that seem made
of air or smoke, though they were
the yellow of old linen,
of a white sheet spread
in a field of mustard,
a picnic where I first
loved your mother.
But that, too, was later,
though I remember her face
above me, how it seemed
held like a chip of sea glass
to the sun, the sky beyond
so empty of anything
it seemed filled to spilling over
with blue, a color like the hum
you once whispered to your dolls,
your plush bears and ponies,
the sound of your singing
softening the end of love.

James Harms

Rowing with Wings
Carnegie Mellon University Press

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