Tense

By Andy Oram

    
We cycle, we pivot, like turns in the creaking staircase
          while you parry my questions, acting as if they were whiny old pensioners.
   We thread rhetoric through care-ridden halls, circle without limit, reduce ourselves to pouts and shadows.

We no longer share tempered talk
        such as why the retaining wall installed a few years ago will no longer suffice.
                It could appear futile to re-evaluate the move to this long-dreamt outcropping of a district
   with gabled roofs and gravel drives, but lacking a café or convenience store.

Perhaps Mona could have reacted with some composure
            toward our planning the reunion when her partner might have been in Rwanda.
            And if Samik had not wanted to bother with our cello, perhaps it would
     have profited us not to be bothered with him.
Third conditionals have worn out my hospitality.

I used to watch your tired muscles on the treadmill.
   I harbored the words behind the silences I was hearing on the phone.
You claim indulgences in the salon.
Press on me no more ambiguities before the mantel in the evenings, please,
     and no more wiles shielded by entitlements.
The way to imperatives has become impossible.

So gracious was everyone at the last funeral
        we would all have almost been smothered.

We snag our conversations on the past perfect continuous.
All this time I had been taking our
    cast-off understandings out for burial.
            I’m forced to trade my complaints for excuses in a
    depreciated medium.
Now the mobs are rousting in the streets, dear.

So whence henceforth
            our conjugation?

All year our actions will have been marred by preplanned irregularities
       and all the adverbs I saved up
             to ennoble our expressions
  have lost their potency.

Andy Oram is a writer and editor in the computer field. His editorial projects have ranged from a legal guide covering intellectual property to a graphic novel about teenage hackers. Print publications where his writings have appeared include The Economist, the Journal of Information Technology & Politics, and Vanguardia Dossier. He has lived in the Boston, Massachusetts area for more than 30 years. He self-published a memoir, “Backtraces: Three Decades of Computing, Communities, and Critiques”, and his poems have been published in Ají, Arlington Literary Journal, Conclave, Genre: Urban Arts, Heron Clan, Offcourse, Panoply, Soul-Lit, Speckled Trout Review, and WhimsicalPoet.

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