The Last Time

by Edward Harkness


It happened on the pier, your back against a railing, masts of several sloops
to your right, topped with their colored flags, the sea behind and to your left—

a warped sheet of tin. As proof it really happened, your friend took a picture
just before I stepped forward toward your opened arms, my face mirrored

in your snazzy sunglasses, your hair in long silver braids—as if such proof
would reveal the moment before the moment the world changed.

We were never lovers, lovers only in the sense of love for those scalable,
sometimes reachable, imagined summits we ascend in the silent odd hours.

That step toward your arms meant we were old friends, heart friends.
I introduced you to my true love, who hugged you, and to my son, who,

with baby in a chest-carrier, hugged you. Steam, I recall, rose from planks
laid out, you’d mentioned, during the pandemic of 1918, the tar softened,

sun-warmed after a morning squall. A man chomping a cigar stub walked by,
pushing a wheelbarrow of oysters. His red rubber boots glistened. In our plague,

to save each other, we mask ourselves, we do not hug. That distant moment
marked the last time, on that pier, your face in full sun, your back against a railing.



Edward Harkness is the author of three full-length poetry collections, Saying the Necessary, Beautiful Passing Lives, and most recently, The Law of the Unforeseen (2018, Pleasure Boat Studio press). His poems can be found online in 2River, Atticus Review, Cascadia Review, The Good Men Project, Hinchas de Poesia, The Humanist, Rat’s Ass Journal, Raven Chronicles, Salt River Review, Split Lip Magazine, Switched-On Gutenberg and Terrain.Org., as well as in print journals including, most recently, Chariton Review and Miramar. His chapbook, Ice Children, was published by Split Lip Press in 2014. He lives in Shoreline, Washington.  Varada J.M is a 9th-grader based in Kerala’s Koyilandi, studying at Rani Public School, Vadakara. After hurriedly doing homework, Varada divides her time between practicing classical dance and watching horror films. She loves dogs but nobody at home wants one.