When We Said Goodbye and other poems

by Jonathan Harrington


When We Said Goodbye

That morning
you stepped out
on the porch
with just your robe on.
You touched me
on the shoulder
and said: I’m sorry.

I got in my car
and drove
I don’t remember where.
I headed out
into the country—

At the foot
of the hill
in the pasture
behind the house
two roan horses
lay in the wet grass
beside each other.

set the field
on fire
and I saw them stir,
one nudging
the other
with her snout.

I had never seen
horses lying down.
And until that morning
when we said goodbye
I had always believed
that they slept



The hardest two-syllable word
you´ve ever had to say in life—
X-wife. The “X” choked out, mumbled,
whispered, but hard and clear on “wife.”
Eyes lowered, a scarlet “X”
of failure on your chest. Ashamed
to even spell it out—“X.”
You´re friends, a cliché for which you´re
grateful. Still, you dread the coming
time you won´t be able to just
pick up a phone and ask her what
her day was like because some truly
sane and decent guy has taken
her and closed the door. So when the
phone rings beside their bed she´ll sigh
and say: Probably my X, just
let it ring. And you´ll know why.


Every morning
she stops beside you
at the same spot
in front of my newsstand
both of you rushing to work.
How perfectly timed your mornings must be
for your feet and hers
to touch the same crack in the sidewalk
as they always do just before nine
when I’m cutting open boxes of magazines.
She sometimes tries to catch
the look in your eyes as she hands me exact change.
But you always gaze down
as if something shameful
is happening between the three of us.
At night I lie awake
wondering who she is
as the light from the streetlamp outside my window
pours onto the frayed carpet
of my furnished room.
I wonder if you ever
lie awake at night, too,
somewhere across town
thinking of her.
In the morning while I stack the Daily News,
you get off the bus
as she comes up from the subway, briefcase in hand,
and you walk toward each other.
It is a ritual between us.
I hand her the Wall Street Journal,
and you the New York Times,
as your feet and hers almost touch
but then are lost in the traffic
of our separate lives.

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Jonathan Harrington lives in an 18th century hacienda which he restored himself in rural Yucatan, Mexico where he writes and translates poetry. He was an invited reader at the International Poetry Festival in Havana, Cuba in 2012. A graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, his poems have appeared in Poetry East, The Texas Review,Poetry Ireland Review and many other publications worldwide. He has published four chapbooks: The Traffic of Our Lives (winner of the :Ledge Press, 19th annual chapbook award), Handcuffed to the Jukebox, Aqui/Here (bilingual) and Yesterday, A Long Time Ago. His translation of the Maya poet Feliciano Sánchez Chan´s book, Seven Dreams, appeared this year from New Native Press. In addition to poetry, he has edited an anthology of short stories, authored a collection of essays, and has published five novels.

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art by Kreso Cavlovic