Before they parted, she could not look at him.
Her hair was a comfortless shawl, a veil
To keep her sight to herself, to keep him from her;
Which kept in all the warmth of the grave.
I do not know just what he must have said to her:
They stood a little way off, in the rain,
Across tracks, a thousand miles from me.
She looked on, past him, opened lips
As if to say something, in perfect silence
So that he alone would hear it perfectly.
And he understood. He brought a hand
As if to confess in a gesture,
Gently to that veil, to her face –
And now, I knew that this was forever –
For she could not help but see him, now.
All the art of a millennium could not
Place in artifice the sacrifice, the prone
And lonely company they kept for that brief departure.
They lingered there, on the very edge of disaster,
As they made that crucial error: they made a promise,
Without words, and crossed kisses like
The first to fall would lose the duel.
He withdrew first: drew his bag over his shoulder,
Looked about for something, some explanation
Written on the service screen, some reason;
And I realized that, once he had taken that next step,
Once he had made for the final departure,
As she looked on still, well: that was it.