Melbourne Ships


They passed each other as strangers
one busy lunchtime in the city.

The safety switch inside his head
made him doubt that it was her.

She convinced herself she didn’t care,
and didn’t look back once.

Later he couldn’t remember what he’d done
to win her, the words he’d used, the hands.

She tried to forget that first night because
it was what she needed to hear but couldn’t accept.

He still has a photo buried in his desk
that shows the two of them at the beach.

The beach was the turning point for her,
but not the place to tell him it was over.

He remembered her words when she left:
ticks that burrowed under skin and itched for days.

She said she was doing it for both of them,
that they hadn’t “connected at a deeper level.”

Now she thinks he hasn’t aged well, but
spills coffee at her desk without knowing why.

He smiles at the generosity of memory
and leaves the photo where it is.

In idle moments they know it’s not the ships
you have to worry about in the night:

it’s just footsteps in a city of 8 million
that bring the past back in their wake.

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