Anniversary at the Evening Café

Susanna J. Mishler

Cups of coffee steamed in our hands. The courtyard
purpled under vines. On her index finger,
suddenly, an emerald mayfly—wings veined,
          abdomen swooped up.

Mayflies live one day and expire. They flicked through
my dreams last night. Under an olive tree, once,
Archimedes dreamed of the space an object
          fills as divorced from

the thing itself. Or, said in a different way: new
means of quantifying what isn’t there. We know
the exact dimensions of absence. Tesla
          witnessed his dying

mother rise, heard singing and saw angelic
figures cloudborne, marvelous beauty . . . floated . . .
vanished. He detested the enigmatic
          nature of visions—

everything’s explainable, he believed, if
we can ask the right kinds of questions. Like, what
occupies the space in my cup when coffee’s
          gone? How can creatures

like the mayfly live without mouths? Once, I thought
the size and shadow of her loneliness matched
mine: a space in each of us domed, bottomless,
          open like a bell.

Two bells without tongues, waiting. Evening thickened.
We expect the mayfly to spring and vanish,
but it stayed. My hand upon hers—a boat on
          water—we’re strangers.

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