Issue FIfteen - October 2009

A History

By David Huddle

So they met for dinner
at a country inn and found
something like desire still
hovering between them.

She described her daughter,
who wasn’t well and whom
she loved so fiercely she
thought it wasn’t natural.

When he was small, he said,
his mother took him swimming
at a pool where they changed
into their suits together

in a tiny stall.
That locker room stank,
he said. Mostly it was
chlorine, but there was

another smell in there–
If incest had a smell,
that’s what it would be like.
Their table’s candle gave

them permission to look
into each other’s faces,
and so they sat quietly
over cooling coffee.

Outside there was a moon,
shining on a meadow.
The stone wall was easy
enough to step up onto–

so he offered his hand
to help her step down
onto the other side. How
they came to shed their clothes

can’t be explained–it was
what a woman and man
will do maybe once
in their lives. What it meant

wasn’t clear to them–not
sex, but what they felt was
both power and danger.
Late August, the field

became cooler the farther
downhill they walked–Are you
cold? he asked. Yes, she said,
but they didn’t turn back.

They paced through wild flowers,
weeds scraped their shins, dew
numbed their feet, and the moon
bathed them in icy light,

but they went on; their arms
sometimes touched, but silence
seemed right for whatever
it was they were doing.

Punishment? she murmured
as they neared the stone wall
again. He thought about it.
Yes, he said and helped her

steady herself stepping
back into her slacks. That
must have been it, he said.
And now we’re free? he asked.

He could see her face well
enough for her grim smile
to tell him what it told.
He’d spend years translating

that dark look, and she’d think
back to how they said goodbye,
a hug so hard it hurt,
even through layers of clothes.