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A woman holds another's hand

like a vague thought

clear as milk

and the tea leaves she reads from, too,

are whitened with age.

How long have they stared?

The first woman looks forward

for fortune along hand lines;

the second, a flesh of her own for a moment,

forgets the determined body

the future draws her to.


The first woman says,

"Water nourishes plants,

but in tea,

the leaf darkens water

and so tea inverts the natural order

and breaths count themselves backwards

from the grave

and I can see now the number

you have left.”


“I heard you say this before,”

the second woman says.

“When?” asks the first.

“Back when I had a name

and autumn wasn’t simply a season

but a reason to return home.

Now, the farm’s apples rot

and our forgetful children

live alone, in generous homes,

ignoring how the fruit molds.”


“Back when you had a name,”

the first woman says,

“our world was younger

and it breathed a different sigh

when spring brought the promise of joy.

Then, the lantern and flame

spoke a similar language,

but those tongues of fire and spirit

are silent among the machines.”


The second woman says,

“The last time we spoke,

we said the same words,

you were I and I you,

or at least our names were the same.”


Both women looked

at the whispering tea

and the silence between them blossomed

until the first woman said,

“Water never forgets,

even if we do.”

The second woman said,

“You said you knew

how many breaths I had left?

How many, please tell me, tell yourself.”

The first woman said,

“I will tell you exactly the words

you told me four seasons past:

you have one year.”

Jerome Ramcharitar High Res Photo.JPG

Jerome Ramcharitar is a writer based in Montréal, Québec. Most of his days are spent teaching English as a second language and occasionally causing more trouble as a poet. A language fanatic, he has dipped his fingers into editing, translation, and the dangerous world of card games. He has one chapbook, The Wrong Poem and Others Like It, published with Cactus Press in 2021, and is currently working on a fantasy novel, Obsidian.

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