I Am Absent, But Deep In This Absence—after a line by Juana de Ibarbourou

by Leslie Ullman       

a prickling like tiny, almost
downy cactus thorns that work
their way through leather gloves
sometimes settles at the periphery
of my thoughts when the person I love most
is troubled.  Even here, two time zones
away, astonished to find one at last,
I pick up a heart shaped stone
carved, polished, laced with salt
and left at my feet by Atlantic tides
and my fingers can feel, along
its mirrored halves, the spines of trouble
against his fine heart.  The little inroads
it makes.  The undertow beneath his jokes
and gentle hands.

My absence leaves
the shape of me when I’m gone.
The person I love most loves my life
as it is.  He takes the ebb
and flow of  trouble
quietly as the fields take
the weather, as the sky takes clouds,
as the earth took the solitude
of its birth into gasses and rock.

The heart shaped stone warms
in my palm, and now at my feet I can see
scores of  hearts, their different shades
and symmetries, heart shapes repeating themselves
all along the beach.  The prickling etches spidery
cracks through my hands, as though someone
has thrown stones against them.  I fill
my pockets with heart stones and carry,
though he would never ask me to,
his heart in my hands
as the earth accepts my footprints
and relinquishes them to tides.