The call came at midnight: “Hello, old friend.”
He knew the voice, calked with tar and weather,
Spoke through smoke and perdition, a split-end
In time, a flaw of memory so human.
Across their marriage bed Juliet stirs.
She knows, yet speaks: “Is that your special friend?”
Unsaid denial chokes him. Air unbends
Under her gaze. He swallows desire,
Percussive, emetic. “When will it end?”
All these years in the bliss of depression
He has slept with fear of sun and scorn for stars
Unknowing if they grow for foe or friend,
Love or lust, that pale mad hard-hearted wench
Or sad poet of sentiment. He ponders –
And catches his wife’s eyes. He presses CALL END.
He thinks again of the friar’s poison.
He thinks of Benvolio and Balthasar.
He thinks on the inconstant moon. Old friend,
In my other life, how does this story end?
Anthony Tao’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Prairie Schooner, Borderlands, Kartika Review, Cottonwood, Asian Cha, Naugatuck River Review, Poetry East West, etc., plus an anthology of China writing called While We’re Here. You can find more of his work on his website, anthonytao.com. He formerly coordinated the international China Bookworm Literary Festival, and is currently managing editor of the China news website SupChina.com. Follow him on Twitter @anthonytao.