To K****

What is love? ‘Tis not hereafter.
Present mirth hath present laughter.
What’s to come is still unsure.

In delay there lies no plenty.
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty.
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

– Shakespeare, “Twelfth Night

Yes, I played the fool:
But it was love, I swear it was —

For young though we were then,
We knew the world, the stars above,
We knew the truth,
And we knew love.

What pride had I,
To lose control?
To let her steal my will,
Toy with my soul?

For young though I was then,
I knew the face, the shoulders I dreamed of:
I knew the agony of hope,
And truly, very truly, I knew love.

I sat upon a couch of sorts,
Amid unspoken prayers:
I saw her sitting on the stairs,
She looked at me as though I was the one,
The only one:
The sole and ever only one –
Because I knew her pain and wouldn’t draw away —

For young though she was then,
She’d known the bruise the scream the shove;
She longed for freedom to be hers,
And she knew love, yes – she knew love.

I played the fool to escort her
From danger out to safety –
She loved me with the passion of
A thousand burning suns.
We loved with inexperience, our
Clumsiness turned into something stately –
And many times – the first time – was
A thousand more than once —

And how she wept upon my shoulder
Dreaming of tomorrow;
And where her soul flew to at night
I never understood –
But what she had to give, she’d never
Let a vagrant borrow,
Then she left me for better, and
For good.

But there: the fool who plays at love,
Who loves with all ignominy —

When I heard what had come of her,
I thought of her sad dignity,
That would not be held down,
Or trapped,
Restricted by the hidden threads of fate —

Who ran away not far enough,
And left a life

Too early and
Too late

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