We left Halloween, its pumpkins and gravestones
and rotting leaves, for candleglow and a velvet dress.
You wore the string of black pearls, and
all night I imagined myself reaching across the table,
plucking a pearl off the line like a hard grape,
then dropping it into your glass of champagne
just so I could watch you watch it fall.
Even after I’d brought you back to my flat, where
your presence alone caused all the bulbs to blow,
even as you sank into the curve of my breath
upon your neck, I could think of nothing but
that pearl descending within the thin parabola:
the muffled dud when it reached its terminus, soft
as the sound of my tongue knocking against
the backs of my teeth while I held quiet
the desire to watch you wait for the miracle
I knew would not occur when it hit the bottom.
Stephen Lackaye's manuscript, Claims, has been a finalist or semi-finalist for awards including the Elixir Press Open Competition, Brittingham/Pollak Prizes, and the Patricia Bibby First Book Award. His poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in The Normal School, Los Angeles Review, Cave Wall, Pinch, Poet Lore, Sow’s Ear, Dos Passos Review, and other literary journals. He holds an MSc from the University of Edinburgh and an MFA from Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches in The Writing Seminars.