When does the man have room for a life?
I mean, he must bring something of where he's been.
I look and look

for reasons that might tell me how he slipped through,
some different shade of sepia tone in his brown
uniform, his brown hair, his brown face.

There, the way his hand crooks,
his fingers slightly spread
as he reaches to touch the shoulder of the soldier

coming back to the group suggests a missing cigarette,
a fragment of motion practiced too many times
to be anything other than itself. Or his face.

I pretend to wish for red here, for a blush
to tell me the story behind the knowing in his eyes,
what he shared so strongly

with the man walking toward him,
a story that could count backward,
a story that would skip forward

each perfect step at a time.
I can almost hear the next word falling from his lips,
the pause that sounds like him and doesn't.

Thomas Robert Barnes
THOMAS ROBERT BARNES has had his poems published in many small literary magazines and has read his work in Virginia, Washington, D.C., Vermont, and Connecticut, as well as San Diego and Seattle.  In January he will be guest speaker at the Many Mountains Moving Literary Salon in Boulder. Fish Story, the book, his collaboration with watercolorist Penny Schrawder, will be out in May 2003. Naked Truth, pairing Penny's nudes with his love poems, is scheduled for 2004.