#NaPoWriMo Day 22 – Before

Still from “Before Sunrise” 1995
(Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke)



When we first saw you,
the unhappiness at the
edge of your eyes was apparent

You were a little yellow bird
hungry for new experiences,
but you were outwardly full,
on dining car snacks,
on life, and
summertime scenery

So envious to the aging

Daydreamers smile
while an old couple argues
and it raises tension
because other train passengers
now have to decide which
one of them they are,
and which high road
they would take


When you first saw him,
spoke to him,
you wondered who all of his
impersonated voices belonged to

Did they all live in his mouth,
head, heart, ventriloquist’s dummy eyes,

You led with
what you hated because he asked

You didn’t care about his reactions,
just the timing of a perfect giggle,
flirty, but all your own

Both of your hands
became flocks of birds
the more you settled
into each other in those
seats in the back

You kept your gaze on him
and he on you especially
when you shyly stared
into your lap

(I keep looking at
the poster in between
you two during the
listening booth scene

I can hear him scream
at you to stop being
so damn adorably awkward)



How many hidden
cemeteries have
you stumbled upon?
How many young men
have you kissed
after heavy conversations
about death overlooking
majestic metropolis views?


Enter sundown

The kiss lit a fire
in you both

Wild spontaneity,
dancing, neon fluorescent
flashing lights

Whimsy and funny stories
all interlaced with
commonality over
shitty childhoods

You’re both poets
who describe things
so elegantly,
your words dripping
with honey and pain


poking fun to distract
you from falling in love

Amateur actors,
palm readers,
street poets

We are all
the people you meet

An awestruck audience,
fickle with fear
over your future


The stardust drained
from your eyes,
and your forced laugh
became higher pitched

This voice, the mocking one,
you could do without it

He’s trying to be so
edgy, so cute
but he’s a child, a boy

You detract with
intelligent, (and adult)
musings about art


Your empathy
is drowning him
He sees tenderness,
a mother, in you
He hesitated the
first time he tried
to touch your hair

You think of weddings
(you’re in an old church,
it’s fitting)
while he’s actually speaking
of marriage
and you can’t
help but wander
into uncharted territory

His fingers in your hair,
pushing back an invisible veil
and maybe God’s whispering
but you’re both agnostic

Not that it matters because
miracles don’t require
an ounce of faith
when something so
magical exists in
a single space
between two people


Of course a poet
was present during
your first fight!
Of course!
Our dream job
incarnate saves
the whole night


Pessimistic player,
you let him win,
didn’t you?
You claimed murderous
tendencies because
now, in public,
are where you really
want to see his

analyzing you
as he checks out
the menu

The place is
grungy and
and he can
clearly see you
through the
beer you’re


Is pretending
to tell others
how you feel
about each
other, in front of
each other, any
different than
what you’d whisper
to each other
on a long
phone line?


The night is drawing to a close
and your mind turns to morning

You hope this isn’t “the girl thing” to do
and change your mind in one reluctant glimpse toward tomorrow

All boundaries drift away on a sound wave,
the water lapping, the restaurant band playing

While you utter early and half hearted goodbyes,
“Whatever time remains,” he says

You stop counting the minutes because
you’ve decided only right now exists


You steal the night,
the stars, the wine glasses,
the kisses, the direction
of conversation, the
doubts, the passion,
the inevitable, the possible,
the whole sad
and beautiful scene


You uncomplicated
matters so quickly
and dawn dusted
your eyelids     Birdsong
and harpsichord
symphony     You
two will take any bittersweet
distraction     You will
spin circles around reality
and take photographic
memories that have
the potential to haunt
the rest of your lives

A city just after waking up
can feel so desolate,
or feel like a corner
of Heaven with a
siren stranger in your arms

He recites in a dead
poet’s ramblings
about fate
and you love his
flaws and all you
imagine you could
know about him

If only…more…time


Did you forget the ticking clock,
the countdown, the bells
tolling, the end being so
near like you forgot a
minor promise made at
the heights of “getting to know you”?

Fear is making you crazy,
so you leap,
he follows

You make breathy plans for a reunion,
six months later

No torture of letters,
phone calls,
last names–

(At this point the audience can’t believe either of you)

–Just you catching
the train that
pulls you away
from him

And the replays
of the dreamlike
aspects of the night
visible in both
of your smiles
in separate cars,
going in opposite directions

You’re pinching yourselves,
both of you are,
to make sure the delusion is real


© Jennifer Patino (2017)

* Note:  I had a crazy idea to write three series of poems about one of my favorite movie trilogies, Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise”, “Before Sunset”, and “Before Midnight” today. After writing through half of the first film I realized how long these pieces would be (and how tired I was haha) so decided to save the other two poems for another day. This is “Before” and the ‘you’ I am speaking to in it is the main character, Celine (played by Julie Delpy). I encourage you to see all of the films. With this poem I wanted to focus mostly on the initial meeting of the characters and Celine’s viewpoint. For the next one, “During”, I will focus on Jesse (Ethan Hawke). This first poem is about the beginnings of a new relationship. For the next one, I will take inspiration from the film “Before Sunset” but apply it to a relationship that actually was. (I won’t spoil the films for you by saying any more than that right now!)

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