red gelato cone in Florence, Italy

Every Contact Leaves a Trace

In his wallet, he carries business
cards, coal black, with no text, no
nothing, on either side.
Nor anything else.
Let others draw
what inferences they will.

Let them factor in the absence
of identity, the silence that a lack of
money signifies, (as opposed to the
discretion an abundance brings).
Let them fashion conclusions
out of this whole cloth.

His hands, sheathed against
contamination, prim, stiff-limbed
arachnids, continue their tactile
inquisition, one last traverse for
carelessness and betrayal.
A circumspect manipulation
lest there be anything
meaningful overlooked.

They thumb interior folds and
finger each labial line and recess,
curl a dust dry residue from a cleft;
tips running the ripple of stitching,
rhythmic in a machine pulse.
And finding themselves empty,
full of all there is to be found,
they come to rest,
composed for ten heart beats.

A reluctant breeze releases an aroma
of cold meat and warm metal,
a familiar note in the perfumed
pollution of this place;
all drawn in on one deep,
deep breath.
A Madeleine moment,
savoured, swallowed.

His hands withdraw from
his wallet, a single business card,
coal black, with no text and without
hesitation he slides the wafer between
those pale, parted lips, along
a speechless tongue,
into the wet,
wordless mouth.

And if the cards say
anything at all, it may be that
anonymity does not preclude vanity.
This he does allow.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This poem was selected from entries submitted to our Creative Challenge Series #1: First Sentences, which required that the first sentence in the text must be used as given.