Alice O. Howell   


The Lovers


                Psyche spends three warm nights with Eros

                        they lie together uncovered and entwined

            and watch the fireflies out the open window -


            the first night is a tumult

                        when she awakes, he is gone

            so she changes the sheets

                  has seconds on bacon and eggs.


            the second night is sweet, languorous

                  full of tenderness

                        every question she asks

                                    he stifles with another kiss


            The moon is reticent, discreet

                        a thousand years ago or a thousand miles away

                                    the ocean turns over smiling in its sleep


                        when Psyche awakes, he is gone again

            but she finds a note propped up against the coffee pot:

                                    "I love you!"

            she makes the bed with troubled eyes

                        would he, if he really knew?


            the third night he is late

                        but hungry, it seems, for more and more of her -

            they knock the clock over

                 time scatters in little pieces on the floor

            would he?  Psyche asks herself.


            Eros sleeps, his breath tickling her ear

                         the sweet spice of him engulfs her

                                    but Psyche cannot sleep


                        she gets up, stumbling over the

            fragments of eternity which cut her feet

                        she curses softly

                                    an owl warns in the distance

            she goes to the bathroom door and without thinking

                        turns on the light

                                    Eros wakes


            he  is far younger than she!

                        a mere boy with sleep caught in his lashes!

            she stands in the doorway

                        feasting her eyes on the beauty of him

                                    but not Eros

            "You fool!" he hisses, "you fool!  What did I tell you!"

                        then he pulls on his pants, ties his shoes with emphasis

                                    without another word

             he lets himself out, slamming the door.


            Psyche sees him out the window one last time

                        the match flaring his face

                                    as he angrily lights a cigarette


            she puts on her old pink chenille dressing gown

                         gathers the broken clock pieces philosophically

                                    into a black dustpan

            in her broken-down slippers, she goes to let out the cat

                         takes in the paper and sees the grey dawn

            but by the time the water has boiled for coffee for one

                        she is already bent over the table



                        a thousand years or a thousand miles away

                                    the ocean heaves again and sighs

                                                for it is full of such tears.

                                                                                                                a. o.howell