“Aubade from a Balcony in Winter, After Watching La Notte” by Max Lasky

So once again you begin here
at the beginning, near the end,

as the human language you lost
you now regain. In the doorway

a woman loitered, imagined or real,
it doesn’t matter. She wore a name

like a white dress and smiled slightly,
as if to offer you advice, if only

you knew then just what she meant.
In a hospital bed your friend said

“The advantage of a premature death?
You give success the slip.” You slipped

a note into her clammy hand because
you’re accustomed to failure, you like

its scent. And since all the good Catholics
are dead, the waiter with champagne

propped on a tray didn’t offer you any,
not one glass. It must be your clothes,

the month old smoke stench, dead skin,
and your only friend burned to ashes.

Who will you call now when the visions
kick in, when the film ends and the hotel—

vacant, the front desk receptionist has left. 
Put simply, your friend ended one pain

in the name of another. In a dirt lot
two men fought behind a funeral parlor,

one for attention, the other for honor.
You were as high as you’ve ever been,

wasting time. You thought if the future is 
the entire sum of the past and present,

you count it vanishing in smoke rings.
And if a man stands at a balcony’s edge

as his hands sweat, nothing will happen. 
Your blue haired lover stands confident,

the white dress in a circle around her feet,
begging you to grow wings as she speaks.

In bed her legs shake uncontrollably.
And later, she showers as you sit

smoking a cigarette, as you dream of 
a future not too far off when at last

you’ll come to take your solitude back.
Towel around her chest, your shirt ripped,

who said it’s too late for second chances?
Revealing less than a nakedness, she dances

like a dancer, she gazes but never blinks.
Gorgeous, you think, her hair longer

than yours, and wet, two earrings glinting
in half light almost brighter than pearls—

life would be a lie if not for desire. 
If not for desire, your dead friend 

might still be alive and the new lover
you met at his funeral, a stranger. 

“Isn’t the morning dew beautiful?”
she asks, as your fists grip the railing

and you stare out to the horizon, frozen
in pink, as the fresh world thaws and spins

and your breath vanishes, as the melted snow
strums the gutter, and your head rings. 

Max Lasky‘s poems are published or forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Frontier Poetry, the Academy of American Poets Anaïs Nin Poetry Prize, The Indianapolis Review, and elsewhere. He is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Leavings (https://www.leavingslitmag.com), and he is an assistant poetry editor for Narrative Magazine.