Peter Kline

An Encounter

              —There’s something not-quite-right about you, he said.

—There’s something not-quite-right about the way
you stand beside me, close enough to touch me.

              I’m handsome. I know how to be gentle.

When I saw you crossing this way
I watched you cross over

              straight to the spot, and stand beside me.

Foreplay to a handwashing—
the way you play with your drink,

              smoothing droplets into the palm of your hand with your thumb;

with your thumb you smooth down hairs on the back of your hand.
If you know the song that’s playing, you don’t show it.

              I’m careful. I know how to be lonely.

When I saw you cross over that way
I couldn’t see you, couldn’t stand the sight of you.

              There’s something—something not-quite-right

in the thing you’re almost about to tell me,
what only a stranger makes safe.

              You stand beside me, close enough

to tell me what no one else can hear;
I’ll bend to you halfway.