She

August Kleinzahler

She was eating an onion as if it were an apple,
keeping her distance from the rest of us gathered there
on the shore of the vast and famous volcano lake.
It was an interlude for writers at some sort of literary affair.
We had just been served a dreadful local Prosecco
the event’s organisers seemed unreasonably proud of,
hick culture functionaries in this distant corner of Oceania.

Stand-offish though she may have affected to be,
I walked directly over to where she was standing and said,
Is the onion meant to discourage the plague of suitors
who will be drawn like moths to the radiance of your beauty?
She barely acknowledged that I was even there, turning
her head ever so slightly in my direction as if she had picked out
in the breeze the faintest strains of an unfamiliar folk melody,

even though we had been lovers once, long ago,
passionately, memorably, including even murmurs of marriage.
She then turned herself further towards me, just perceptibly,
and said, in the chilly, rather formal manner of a chargé-d’affaires
or barrister and inquired: – How deep do you suppose it is out there?
Naturally, I wanted to fuck her. So, by the way, would you.
We could have hardly been further from home, mine or hers,

with its bauxite-coloured condo developments, shopping carts,
rows of garden hose nozzles set out like AK-47s at a gun show,
the two boys nearly grown now, her husband, a signal twerp
if ever there was one. My own circumstances will be of no real interest.
Still, she retained her remote, almost aristocratic demeanour.
– 600 feet or so, I told her.
                Women, I find, can often behave quite strangely …

The black waters now filling the collapsed and empty magma chamber
stretched out before us. A great conflagration then suddenly lit up
a patch in the hills beyond, an explosion almost, a spectacle.
– Fancy a swim? I asked. The notion seemed to jar her insouciance,
if only slightly, but she turned to me now and fully drank me in,
wreck that I am, but with remnants … – Why not, she said,
and began to undress, only a few yards clear of the Prosecco crew.

Her dainties, wet and clinging to her … Well, I had to catch my breath.
Likewise her skin and form, still both youthful and as I remembered.
A deep and most unusual sense of ease and delight welled up inside me
as she gracefully swam in tiny circles around me while I treaded water.
A magical zone, I could feel it, a holy place among the indigenous locals.
– Tell me, she said, swimming so close that now our bodies touched,
do you have an agent?