Leaving was not hard-
a ticket south across the strait
putting distance
between family and the familiar city.
Then, in the southern city-
student populated -
one could hide and find oneself
in unheard, unseen acts of self discovery.

The card games, thick with smoke and rattling coins
smothered in deep analysis of form,
of women, presumed willing but never seen.

Of nights spent drunk
under river bridges
wailing one's fate to ducks, headless,
ignorant of another's agonies, under their comforting wings.

Or rolling, in raucous celebration of nothing,
a keg down Sunday quiet, deserted streets
searching for the elusive party and
the woman to lay ... if not in fact in mind instead.

For what purpose did we learn
of Chaucer's Miller or, later,
in segregated stalls, Joyce's Ulysseian odessey
but to make our journeys
into the age old mystery?

Under the different skies,
I fell in love.and, in uncertain expectation,
stood naked, embarrassed by clumsy eagerness,
in her winter moonlit room
and, later, full of apologies, slunk into the frostwhite street
returning, confused, to dream of conquests, to a grey sheeted bedsit.

Once all was examined
leaving became a returning.
The games, drunken parties and disappointed loves
becoming tales spun to disbelieving ears
to be repeated over greasy cards
and beers spilt in smoke filled bars.

Alan Paprill

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