short stories



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Return to the Hokianga
Ralph Proops

I’m back in the Hokianga,
and doing well at almost forgetting
it’s been exactly a year to the day.

I’d found a way, almost,
not to make you count,
seeing that you insisted on telling me
over and over till I was sick of it,
how you couldn’t be counted on.

But you had to send a card:
one with a picture on the front
of the Place de Vosges where,
presque vu, I almost glimpsed
as you walked next to me
what I was most afraid of finding again.

You have a cruel way with words,
and on the back you’ve written
the unfinished verse
I remember you made up in bed
while I fought 19th-century plumbing
for an excuse of a shower:

‘After the rain
in the Rue de Rivoli,
the light was the colour of
pale champagne,
and you were Piaf: fragile, pensive,
chin resting on an open palm ...’

You’re a poor finisher,
but I’m trying.
I’ve tossed your card
in the bottom drawer with the rest,
and now I’m waiting again to see
how long it will take, this time,
to find my way back to the Hokianga.

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