Today's poem is by Bryan Penberthy


Maybe the streets go in circles for reasons
you've not deciphered—surely there is some kind of order,
some kind of reason to the erratic map,

the buildings made of glass, translucent bellies
revealing shops filled with crap nobody needs but lovers—
sappy cards, figurines, dead roses that have

already been pressed and dried to save time. Here,
restaurants are crowded with couples pressed together, hands
engaging in their tender ministrations.

It is love, surely, that keeps the leaves turning
perpetually from green to fall's caramelized mauves
and tans. This could be the best place you have known,

except you are conspicuously alone.
It wasn't always this way. Strangers who claim to know you
keep coming up and asking after Sarah,

a name that seems important to figuring
out something key about your isolation, but you have
no news. Your answers leave them unsatisfied

and anxious. It's like carrying terrible news
to Hamlin: the streets clean and gleaming, the children vanished.
There have been studies: a noted psychiatrist,

Dr. Robinson, claims love is merely fear
of being happy once and then losing it forever.
The baker downtown argues love is hunger:

is taking famished bites from some uncommon dish—
salt-crust salmon, raspberry tort—then endlessly trying
to revisit that startling first taste. The news

I trust comes from my physician, Dr. Wiens.
Love, she insists, is allergic response, a miswired
reaction to the chemicals nearness stirs

in our bodies; that love is merely the effect
of losing equilibrium. Love as a withdrawal
symptom. But maybe she is wrong too. This morning

I took a walk along the river's bank, skipping
stones across its languid eddies, trying to figure out
just who the hell this Sarah might be, anyway.

According to the paper's headline, The Only
Love That Lasts Is Unrequited Love
, but everyone here
scoffed. Me, I'm not so sure. It could explain why I

love anything temporal—the light at sunset
crossing the wall of my small room, changing it from shadow
to gold. It explains the girl on the radio

singing It's gonna be alright, and sounding so
certain, though I have heard this song at least seven times this
week. I think the river knows more about love than

any of this town's experts. All day it reflects
the leaf-burdened trees and the heavy clouds, never touching
anything but stone and mud. But it never quits.

Copyright © 2006 Bryan Penberthy All rights reserved
from Bat City Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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