Damian's Tale by David St. John

Because I’d gotten there so early I’d grabbed a table right
          outside The Novel Café next

To a hip young couple meditating on decorative foam leaves
          floating atop their mega-lattes

& a quick glance pegged her as a devotee of another new hybrid
          Eco-Goth look one just had to love

Though he was a more standard issue Santa Monica surf stud
          in pale blond cords & curls

& the same smoky blue plaid Pendleton the Beach Boys wore
          then Damian pulled up

Straight from the airport in what seemed the smallest rentable
          sub-sub-compact I’d ever seen

& slowly unfolded his six-foot-six collapsible LA Laker’s body
          & stood up rail-straight looking

At me grinning while I just shook my head & pretty soon we were
          contemplating our own foamy leaves

& talking about some lines of Sophocles he’d been translating         
          that morning as the deadline

For his book got near & as we both put our intellects on pause
          sipping our lattes in that momentary silence

We heard the girl say consolingly of course I always think about
          you when I’m masturbating well

Almost always not always maybe but really most of the time—
           so after that I admit

It was hard to go back to talking about versions of Sophocles
          but Damian soldiered on 

Telling me a girl he’d loved in his twenties had just written to say
          she still thought of him a lot 

Yet it wasn’t anything he imagined she’d remember—it was the way   
          he’d rested his hands on the yellow keys 

Of a broken-down Yamaha upright in his old Chestnut St. apartment
          & after finishing a piece 

Would reach over & touch the earlobe of her right ear with one finger
          & so he said we just never know

What makes lovers into lovers after all & what surprised him most
          was that after all these years she’d taken

The time simply taken her time that she’d taken time at last to write 

 

David St. John is the author and editor of several collections of poetry, essays, interviews, and reviews. Among his many awards, he has received the Rome Fellowship and the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He is the Chair of English and teaches in the PhD program in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Southern California.

 

Front Cover Issue 64