Waiting for The Imaginary Man: Poem with refrain from Parra

You are late
again, the kind of late
that makes me pick up each

teaspoon from the dinner
table where the empty
plates are waiting, hold

it up to the window
and tilt to catch an ember
of the porch-light

Imaginary shadows
advance down the imaginary road

When you are after
sunset, temperatures begin
to fall, droplets from

the roof begin to slow
until one stops, refuses
to drop at all, takes

root on the gutter
and all others following
after join the icicle

Imaginary shadows
advance down the imaginary road

And the temperature
outside also slows the changing
of the digits on the stove-clock

from 742 to 744
each napkin on the table
goes through another evolution

refolded unfolded refolded
into two lilies, then two fish
and then a frog and turtle

Imaginary shadows
advance down the imaginary road

I wrap my hand around
the glass of juice
I poured too early

find it no longer chilled,
and the mug of tea I brewed to warm
you when you walk in

has long since stopped steaming,
and I empty both
into the sink, refill the kettle

Imaginary shadows
advance down the imaginary road

I open both kitchen curtains
wide so they do not
obstruct the view through

the window, the road that can’t
be seen at night until
you’ve turned off the county main

and the wet gleam
of your headlights begins
to will-o’-wisp this way

Imaginary shadows
advance down the imaginary road

Every time so far
you have been late like this
you’ve come home safe

and every time you have been
late like this, there is this erasing,
this hollowness, this

what would become
of everything if this time
you didn’t


after El hombre imaginario / The Imaginary Man by Nicanor Parra

2 Comments


  1. Separation fear, perfectly captured.

    Reply

  2. Have been there many times–when someone’s late all the dangers in the world parade through your thoughts, and that terrible fear that–“maybe never again” very effective with the repeated refrain.

    Reply

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