Only the Flame Remains
Adam Horovitz

At the Centenary Cider Festival

She wore a smile
built of dynamite and caution,
so of course I followed her
to the heart of the pub,
hissing like a fuse.

Cider slapped lustful
over the edge of my glass and I was
tongueless, ecstatic
as she salted me with laughter,
took the drink I bought her
with a gulp as deep as love.

After that, even the grey-gold
stones in the wall became
giddy with desire and
through the eyes of strangers
old barroom ghosts
peered at me in sozzled envy

until, in jerky slow motion,
the cider led me home, roughly,
through dark lanes,
shouting through me in apple-sorrow:
at unbending trees, at the badgers
crippling the undergrowth,

at the moon
bursting over Catswood, at the leafy
eruptions of disappointed owls.
Home smacked of staircases, of bruise-blood,
the iron tang of frustration
squeezed through my teeth.