[encore] 612: After the Fire

[encore] 612: After the Fire

[encore] 612: After the Fire

This episode was originally released on February 16, 2022.


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I have always been fascinated by ex lovers and their role in my life now. My boyfriend from college and I are still friends. My two high school boyfriends and I are friendly though a little distant. But as the years go by, there are some exes I’d rather not run into. And a few I’d love to see. What is it about some people, the ones to whom we’re always somewhat connected?

A few months ago, I was briefly in New York and one of the first people I ran into outside the Pencil Factory in Greenpoint was an ex boyfriend of mine from over fifteen years ago. He was still kind, funny and handsome. We laughed and his beautiful young companion took a group photo of us outside on the sidewalk. He didn’t stay for a drink, but even the short catch up was...what’s the word…sweet.

My husband was with me and he and my ex talked briefly about music and the pandemic and how different everything was and also the same. It was just good to know we were all safe and okay. I suppose that’s the thing about exes, time goes on, but the moment you shared together, that has stopped, stayed frozen like a film still from a movie.

In today’s gorgeous poem, we see an achingly true depiction of the moment when two old lovers meet again.

After the Fire
by Gregory Fraser

I heard you were going to Italy, he said. You heard correct, she said.
You finally did it, he said, I’m happy for you. I’m happy for myself, she said.
One of Scarlatti’s sonatas poured through the wide French doors
and a toast went up to the hosts, who announced they had been
summoned by the spirits to throw the “little soirée.”

Sometimes, he said, I feel so, I don’t know—droopy—when I think of us,
like a glove, he said, on a hand without fingers. Funny, she said,
I sometimes feel like the hand. Wind moved like memory
through a stand of pines, and then, as though a great umbrella
sprang open, it was night. He looked absently off the veranda

and thought of days that followed her exit, stretched on end,
uniform and blank, like pavement slabs. Do you miss me? he said.
Do you miss me? she said. I miss the self I was with you, he said. 
His face was a letter torn to pieces and taped together. She trembled
like the wire inside a light bulb. Do you remember, she said,

when you told me poetry is for those who walk in their sleep?
Do you remember, he said, when you called a self-portrait a canvas
you paint yourself out of? She let slip a trickle of laughter
then shut the tap. It was getting late. Soon the guests would find
and vanish into their coats. This life is just the clang of a bell, he said.

And death its eternal echo, she said, finishing the thought as if they’d rehearsed.
They kept quiet then for what seemed like a very long while. Venice?
he asked, at last. Florence? Rome? None of these, she said. I’m off
to a tiny borgo in the Umbrian hills called Postignano. He squinted
for a moment. After the fire, he said. So the brochure said, she said.

"After the Fire" by Gregory Fraser from LITTLE ARMAGEDDON copyright © 2021 by Gregory Fraser. Used by permission of TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press.