From The Story-Teller's Hour
He sees her in the lamplight, and is drawn
instantly by her gaze. But when he threads
his way through clumps of guests, she has moved on,
and he pursues, searching among the heads
bent over snacks and conversation. Once
when he thinks he's found her, he draws near
someone who turns -- he feels like such a dunce! --
another face he'd hoped would not be here.
But on the piano, look: a photograph
of her, the nameless girl he needs to see.
Where is the host? There, serving. With a laugh
that strains for casualness, he asks, "Who's she?"
"Ah," sighs the host, over the chips and beers,
"My only daughter, dead these eighteen years."
[RHINA P. ESPAILLAT, Dominican by birth, received the 2001 Richard Wilbur
Poetry Award for her collection of poems, Rehearsing Absence (University
of Evansville). Her previously published collections are Lapsing into
Grace (Bennett & Kitchel, 1992) and Where Horizons Go (New
Odyssey, 1998) which received the 1998 T. S. Eliot Prize.]