Cello by Barbara Pelman

Poem title: Cello Poet name: Barbara Pelman Poem: When he asked if I still loved him, I didn’t answer; but of course, I loved him. He’d become, by then, like the rhyme scheme between lost and most. Carl Phillips “In a Field At Sunset” There was a boy, in Germany, one summer— he spoke halting English, I had no German, but we were young enough not to care. It was August, and along the Spree River there was a cello playing. He asked me to dance and of course, because it was summer, in Germany, and we were young, I did, and after many days and nights, we were still humming the tunes from that cello. I saw him again, just yesterday, so many years later. When he asked if I still loved him, I didn’t answer; Could I fold the years back? Seal them against time, which disarranges all the moments we thought we had. Did we kiss? Of course. Did we talk? There were times when the silence between us was richer than words, heavier and deeper, as if I knew him from some other life, but as I said, we were young then and I am less wise now with all my years. Perhaps the trees leaning into the river, the tall grasses remember better, those hours after the cello. But of course, I loved him. He read me Rilke, I read him Yeats. Because we had no language, we listened more carefully, the words rising and falling, like music. Was it hours or years ago? The sun on our backs, the sharp grasses, dragonflies drifting above us, the scent of our bodies, deliquescent sun, words that stretched along his skin, his lustrous skin, his eyes solemn, so liquid he could fill me up. But as I said, I am less wise now, He’d become, by then, like the rhyme scheme between lost and ghost, and I try with words to pull that summer sun onto the page, the long days by the river, his hands, his spine, the curve of his neck, the way he woke my skin. And later, at night— was that an owl, that low gurgle in the trees? and beyond that, an incandescent something that halts my steps now, along a dark city street elsewhere and so many years later, someone I loved the briefest and most. End of poem. Credits and bio: Copyright © Barbara Pelman Forthcoming in a new collection from Caitlin Press, 2023. Barbara Pelman is a retired English teacher living in Victoria BC. She has three published books of poetry: One Stone (Ekstasis Editions, 2005); Borrowed Rooms (Ronsdale Press, 2008); Narrow Bridge (Ronsdale Press, 2017); and a chapbook, Aubade Amalfi (Rubicon Press, 2016). She is an assistant at Planet Earth Poetry, a poetry reading series that is celebrating its 27th season, and a frequent reader there. Her next book of poetry, as yet unnamed, is scheduled for Fall 2023 with Caitlin Press.