Louder than Words by Melissa Fu

Louder than words

Tell me you don’t care that it’s late and the day is jagged,
tell me you didn’t really come for the book or the cigarettes,
tell me that what has passed doesn’t matter (not tonight, anyway),
tell me where you’ve been; I’ve been looking for you for years.

Wait. Don’t try to squeeze decades into minutes.
Tell me a story instead, a riddle I can wrap my fingers round,
a poem that I can palm under the table,
a tale that will carry me through the next dry spell,

sing me that song – the one you wrote at midnight
when the city stopped blazing and the cicadas fell silent –
with its sad chords and lyrics lifted from John Donne’s poetry,
that’s what I want to hear.

No. Don’t sing that song. I know it by heart already.

Say you’re thinking of raising chickens,
say you’ve planted radishes and runner beans,
say your 97-year old grandmother still serves tea
in the blue teapot we bought her in Hondo.

Say that sometimes you still go there – to the abandoned
house where we lost your grandma’s pith helmet and kissed.
Stop. Don’t say any of that. Not the part about the teapot
and definitely not the part about the pith helmet.

Shh, my finger to your lips,
tell me nothing,
don’t say
a word.


Melissa Fu grew up in Northern New Mexico and lives in Cambridgeshire, England. She has had work published several magazines including Envoi, the Blue Heron Review, and Right Hand Pointing.