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They sit with their knuckles touching
in courteous stiff rapture. He
is tall and poker-faced. On her lips,
her full red lips, a sceptical smile
is forming and receding. She wishes,
so it seems, to be somewhere else
but could not bear the separation.

Some darker current keeps their two hands
knotted so, touched but not committed,
together but not holding on. As their hands,
so their eyes, touching but barely, always alert
to break the contact, if only they could.
The café rattles and swirls around them.
so they wish to go, but can not. Even
idle chatter becomes binding in time.

What those glancing eyes betray, the hands
confirm. Such tentative small steps towards
a bedroom. At such a pace, perhaps, their affair
might never reach the street. Her husband,
coming through the plate glass doors, might look
and wonder if there is a point of contact
between these two, but sees their knuckles
almost touching, and sits down smiling
at them, their unfamiliar stillness.

Ron Pretty’s eighth book of poetry, What the Afternoon Knows, was published in 2013. A revised and updated version of his Creating Poetry will be published later this year. He spent six months in Rome in 2012, courtesy of the Australia Council.