summer heat

in the winter months
she would not push him away
when he curled his body around hers:
his warmth was comforting

but when the seasons warmed
she grew too hot and banished his arms
from around her delicate frame
and on those nights he would go out
to a nightspot he liked for its
smoke and booze and damp heat

sometimes he'd seek out the manager
who would give him a key and
let him unlock the faux
mahoganny piano cover
beneath which a row of hard white
soldiers awaited the command of his
stodgy white finger tips

he would play, on those nights,
melancholy tunes of warmth and clarity
and women would come to listen - 
sometimes two or three at a time -
gathering around the piano,
not talking to him, but watching intently
or just standing nearby
acting nonchalant and disinterested
but carried by the music to his strange
sad world

his fingers swept up and down those
keys as was his childhood fashion,
playing out his heart and watching
the women whose insouciant attention
gave him such silent gratification

when the nights were over
and the mornings were well worn
he would taxi home, a whiff of
whiskey or brandy on his breath
and there she lay, in their bed
beautiful and still

but she lay awake behind closed eyes,
woken always by the slam of a cab door
and the drunken fumblings of her husband as he
climbed into the cold half of the bed
reeking of alcohol and perfume

she knew what he did and it hurt,
all those other women who looked at him
with the adulation she could no longer
bring herself to feel

she had followed him out one night
and watched as a woman chatted to him
saw how he had lit her cigarette
and kissed her hand;
always the charmer

so she had sought to make him jealous,
found herself going out more and more
wearing less and less
until she drew the indiscriminate eyes of
every male she passed,
provoking whistles from construction workers
and straightening of ties amongst businessmen

she caught herself in the reflection of
a tall glass skyscraper
and stood transfixed by her transformation
a tall hourglass of a woman
in high heels, high cheekbones, high style,
wrapped in a dress cut from the dark cloth
of raw sexuality

and from the lobby of that building
her husband watched her as he waited for
an appointment with a blonde property
manager with a styx accent but a polished
demeanour and heels higher and rounder 
than those of his wife

she had a glint in her eye when they met
and he knew how to play it, suave and controlled
the skills of his youth returning to him,
his seduction clean and smooth
buttons popping
elastic stretching
moans unvoiced. . .

afterwards they had conducted business
with burnt lust giving way to ironic
professionalism and innoccuous banter;
and he left her office and walked
straight to the nightspot with the piano
to whose lid he now had his own key

he listened to the whispers of those girls
who gathered around him and felt suddenly
as if he had destroyed something beautiful;
and from the corner of his eye he saw
her push through the crowd, dressed plainly
in jeans and a black t-shirt that he had
always liked her in

and when she looked at him, saw the guilt
in his eyes, she knew - as every woman knows -
and sitting there at the piano he confessed
and they both had tears in their eyes,
held each other while a crowd of men and women
gathered around their embrace and looked on
as they kissed each other for the first time in weeks

and she asked why, to which he replied:
you pushed me away

and she said she was just hot in this
goddamned summer heat

he held her gaze for a while and looked down
at the keys of his piano

and after a while, his fingers found their
way to those musical warriors again

and she reached out and played two octaves above,
the simple, wistful duet they had once shared as young lovers

and all was forgiven
but all was lost


(C) Copyright 2001
Tristan Jakob-Hoff
All Rights Reserved