How Long

by Jennifer Maloney

At the coffee house on South, I wait for you

and she. I drink tea

made of sweet, red flowers and I don’t smoke

the cigarette I want to smoke

that I haven’t smoked

for six years now. It’s been four months

and a new girl

since I’ve seen you.

Is that enough? Because,

I’ll wait.

For four more months. A year.

Another girl, or boy.

A pack of cigarettes. Another summer,

winter, spring.

A novel, a new poem,

a bowl of fruit.

I’ll wait a wedding.

a birth.

I’ll wait a war,

a pestilence,

a new administration.

A sun

and a moon

and a long, rainy day.

A text message.

An email.

I’m not good at it,

but I’m…

practiced.

If you come tonight,

open the door, walk in,

pull out her chair.

Order a dirty chai,

and smile.

Sit down next to me.

Close enough to touch.

Like you’re my friend.

My friend, who taught me

waiting

is nearly just the same as love.

It’s close enough.

Close enough to touch,

as your fingers,

square-tipped and blunt as truth,

sweep across her face

like the hands of a clock,

caress her chin, kiss

the red flower of her mouth.

I turn my face toward the street.

Watch

the unending stream of passing cars,

the ancient, burning stars

following their courses.

Down the street, a church bell chimes

and like all changeless things,

I wait.

Jennifer Maloney was June’s featured reader for Poets on the Porch sponsored by Pink Arrow Arts in Montrose, Pennyslvania. After hearing some of her poetry, I knew I wanted to publish one of her poems at The White Whale. This piece particularly struck me, not only because of its subject matter, which was appropriate for Pride Month, but also its short lines and theme, reminsescent of Emily Dickinson’s “If You Were Coming in the Fall.”

This piece was originally published in ImageOutWrite, Volume 7, edited by Jessica Heatly and published in 2018 at lulu.com.

Maloney is a past president of Just Poets, Inc, an 18-year-old poetry organization based in Rochester, NY.  She is the co-editor of Moving Images: Poetry Inspired by Film, an anthology of work from poets across the globe, published by Before Your Quiet Eyes Publishing, 2021, available on Amazon and at Before Your Quiet Eyes bookstore in Rochester, NY. Jennifer’s work can be found in Anti-Heroin Chic, The Whorticulturalist, Ghost City Review, MemoryHouse Magazine and many other print and online journals; she has also been anthologized in several places, most notably SHIFT: a publication of MTSU Write and the Poets Speak (While We Still Can) anthology series from Jules Poetry Playhouse and Beatlick Press.

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