This Brevity

By Gianmarc Manzione
Originally published in The Paris Review 173 (2005): 234-235.

The shaven rinds of lemon
we squeeze and stir
into our espresso,

the snowfall
of sugar across berries,
custard and crust—

some last delights
among which it is easy to dream
that my fingers unbraiding

your hair by the nightstand
conceal no repercussion,
that the sweep of my palm

across your navel
harbors no future grief.
The halved melon smells good

to us—
we are rinsing
the reek of espresso beans

from our hands,
we are soaking cake
in Khahlua, and later

we will wash that too
out of the glass dish
and the feast

will be wiped from the table
and done with.
And because everything is

this brevity,
the sound of the fork set down on
the empty plate at last,

your finger’s trace
through the devoured
pastry’s leftover cream

signaling the end
of desire, there is a place
in the unlit bedroom,

there by the closed and curtained window,
where we’ll take each other
into the dark.