by Lisa Marguerite Mora
Loneliness is a state of mind,First Place WinnerThird Place Winner
a habit to be broken.
I place the phone back in its cradle
and button my sweater against the chill.
There's no money to keep the heat
on and I don't know how my life
got to this point, where I can't afford
to stay warm. He called today
from the East coast, his voice tentative
then generous. I'm weary
of striving to be self sufficient, weary
of warding off regret. Here,” he says.
Listen to this.”
He reads me a poem.
The words have the quiet clarity of chimes
in a soft breeze.
And in those moments everything is perfect
and a whole life is lived.
A few more words, we say goodbye
and I'm cold again, every cell
of my body, hungry.
So I set out to find food.
In the bookstore I searched for that poem
in the packed shelves of the poetry section,
Crouching in front of two short shelves of journals
I found it, a slim volume, wedged between
a couple of thick anniversary editions.
I thumbed the pages, recognizing
the words he had read to me, over the telephone,
three thousand miles away.
But the images now held sharp edges. I waited
for his voice to walk me through.
But comfort didn't come.
Chopin played in the background.
Somewhere a book fell to the floor.
I looked up, then down again
into the flat print.
I found only the fresh and foreign.
I had to go back to the first page
and re-read the words
for what they were.
I read the next stanza and the next.
I turned the page. Only then did his voice come, echoing
under mine. I started the poem again, our voices moving
in rounds. A third time
in unison, the simple images
awakening in my brain
and I see a way through.
I'm part of the world again.
A fourth time, and his voice
was finally in harmony with mine.