Not on Your Life: a prose poem

©2016 by Jack A. UrquhartNot on Your Life-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We said our farewells in Seattle;
You, heading off to the library in a misting rain,
I, preoccupied with transit arrangements, flight delays.
But I remember the smoky scent of your body
and how thin your shoulders
in our last shivering embrace.

Don’t look back, I told myself, as I walked away—
not on your life, or be stricken helpless,
all steely resolve reduced to salt and tears.
Don’t look back if you can help it.

But, of course, I couldn’t. Not on your life.

You were standing at the top of the hill, the first time I turned,
your shoulders stooped, trousers drooping in denim pools.
My glasses had fogged, but I saw that you’d turned as well,
and how graceful your mittened hands in flight—
like mourning doves—when you waved goodbye.

I wish you could know how beautiful I thought you then—
like a watercolor come to life; a wonder wrought by an artist,
a being more deserving of your existence than I;
and yet, even at that distance, there it was—
the echo of my face cast back at me from yours.

It couldn’t have been more than seconds
before I turned the second time.
But you were already gone, lost in the Seattle mists.

Was it negligent of me—so eager to be on my way—
not to have recognized it then: a matter of life and death?
Was it unforgivable not to have fathomed the truth:
that I had only that one opening—to call you back,
that last chance to call you home?
Is that too much to ask, I wonder?
Too much to stand, perhaps,
of one poor benighted father?

Probably not.

Not on your life.

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About jaurquhart

Jack Andrew Urquhart was born in the American South. Following undergraduate work at the University of Florida, Gainesville, he taught in Florida's public schools. He earned a Master of Arts degree in English, Creative Writing, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he was the winner of the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Award for Fiction (1991). His work has appeared online at Clapboard House Literary Journal, Crazyhorse Literary Journal, and Standards: The International Journal of Multicultural Studies. He is the author of So They Say, a collection of self-contained, inter-connected stories and the short story, They Say You Can Stop Yourself Breathing. Formerly a writing instructor at the University of Colorado’s Writing Program, Mr. Urquhart was, until 2010, a senior analyst for the Judicial Branch of California. He resides in southern California.
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One Response to Not on Your Life: a prose poem

  1. TermiteWriter says:

    You are a true poet, Jack. Don’t stop writing.

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