We slipped from the group and ran among the ruins,
Rows of olive trees. I felt
A hand against my arm; then it slipped away.
A scarf dangling from the branches,
Silver, speckled with rain.
We threw down our coats and ran
As if remembering: slivers
Of marble, a voice hidden in the leaves.
There’s room for one more up here—then
The hand, the slender branches.
Clothing on the grass and in the distance
Rubble thinning out to fields, little towns,
The ocean rippling silently: the moment
Channeled into time before I entered it, a hollow
Opening, dark water draining
From the inlet, tides—I can’t remember your face
Without remembering that moment.
When we first touched earth
We saw tiny drifts of snow
Beside the tarmac. Olive trees.
James Longenbach (1959–2022) published six poetry collections in his lifetime—Threshold (1998), Fleet River (2003), Draft of a Letter (2007), The Iron Key (2010), Earthling (2017), and Forever (2021)—along with nine books of literary criticism, including The Lyric Now, How Poems Get Made, and The Art of the Poetic Line. His fifth book of poems, Earthling, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. A Guggenheim Fellow and recipient of an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he was he was Joseph Henry Gilmore Professor of English at the University of Rochester until his death.