In 1977 they were young,
Edna did aerobics, Orson ate
Wheaties and yogurt. They had
matching tuxedo-striped sweat
suits, hers canary and his azure.
Maria, their literary friend,
invited them to a party.
They could dress as Billy Budd,
Ishmael or Bartelby, as Thoreau,
Whitman or Hawthorne.
Orson was Dimmesdale.
Edna was Hester, he grasped
her waist as they danced. She
whispered hot breath in his ear,
promised the unmentionable.
As if the ghost of the old-young
reverend breathed through Orson’s
nostrils, he palmed his chest. Fluttered
his eyelids. Slicked his forefinger’s
tip with waxed vapor from his ear.
Pressed it to Hester’s cheek,
I’m Sorry darling. I need space.
A hundred years’ indignant rage flushed
her cheeks. I’ll not attend your sick bed,
Arthur. Nor any of your beds. She slapped
him. Removed his arm from her waist, picked
up her gray skirt and absented herself.
The guests applauded.