Here in the place you left, I stay
vigilant through the days of your absence
and begin to notice
a pattern: slight but unmistakable
suggestions, unlikely coincidences
among the day's arrangement of smiles,
daylight, flashes of delight.
Here in the place you left
longing, a conspiracy vast
beyond imagining takes shape
around the unmistakable shape of your absence.

I swear I've witnessed messages
slipping worldlessly between conspirators
plotting to bring you back. I know
because I recognized that brightness
unmistakably yours, your pattern
woven into signs for the watchful
concealed among the everyday—
kindly old ladies, children,
drivers waving me forward, dogs, squirrels, librarians,
cats (!), all gardeners everywhere, beautiful women
smiling at me. All seem to know
and spread the secret sign.

Anyone could be in on it. Last month
I couldn't believe it
when I glimpsed myself
biting my nails, glancing up at myself
through your glasses, listening intently,
shifting my weight to your other hip.

In town, I see your friends
and we pass
echoes of your smile
like folded love notes,
the secret sign.
When you left
the people here who love you
became secret smile-ambassadors,
sharing you like tiny cups of wine
from a good year—no, like saved seeds
open-pollinated
in a good year.

On watchful mornings
even in my thickening oatmeal
I sense a thickening plot:
This unlikely spoonful, oh yes, and the unseen creature
skittering across my steel roof, tapping out
the secret sign, and the weeds
flowering blue up to my doorstep,
this patch of ground
reaching up for a kiss,
this deliberate arrangement
of daylight—Beloved, Grandma, Buster,
Jesus, how could it be
coincidence that just when my skeptic's
heart forfeits your name to the dark, just then
the woven universe, this symphonic web
of all creatures who love you
and wish you were here
catches me, too, in its bright embrace?