After fifty-six years selling chocolate,
he knows what his customers want
before they know themselves:
The boy who slouches in,
chewing gum, acting tough, will choose
a chocolate heart tied in a pink bow.
The old woman who leaves her dachshund outside
wants foil-wrapped liqueurs for her sister
and a single hazelnut cream for her dog.
Lately he can tell where they were born,
which oceans they've visited,
the color of their bedroom walls.
Whole lives press against him
as he curls another ribbon
round a Valentine basket.
But it takes him a minute
before he understands who she is,
the woman in black, her head hooded.
She reaches right through the glass
of the display case for a truffle,
and he sees an hourglass
outlined in silver on her palm.
She eats slowly, allowing him time
to write a last note to his wife.
(First published in the Atlanta Review)