Curtain up: daylight, follow-spot on skin, blue
mottled where unmanned grief spreads her bruise.
Cue fog, enter lover, under whose touch I unravel
like black silk, whose fingers loosen the ache
nestled in my bones. In this light my body swells
with a summer of lust previously unknown. Take
me in, love. Forgive me my sins, love, I’m
yours: pleasure, privilege, and song.
But now: curtain. Lights down. Next scene.
Who seeks comfort in sleep? Who pursues
that deeper urge? The moon in its crayon outline
trembles and grows. Cues marked—warning, standby,
go. From here on I hold my own. I can almost see
your whole body in the dark.
Your breaths slow and multiply, each one
thickening the space between us. And with no air
of privilege, you fall easily into sleep. Do you not
see that death stands over our bed, the lidless eyes
that stare through you as if through a window?
My warm woman, under our bed a reservoir widens.
Past midnight, thunder shakes me again to life.
Can I pull you back to wrap myself in your simple heat,
will you steady me with your living hands?
No. Already, your heavy dreams nudge me aside.
I cannot join you, you simple fool, you
who dares leave, who dares sleep.
Let me say it how we’ve been taught
to say it: I love you. Or, I miss you.
These words that fail their meanings.
Spring’s here, as if last night’s rain
pricked a green vein, our tree
this morning steeped in color.
In your absence, I cannot still your figure
in my mind, your face an inkblot refusing
a shape. Spring insists on love but clouds
froth in the sky’s steel cauldron.
The lawn may appear lush as velvet
but up close it’s all weed, water-grass.
Somewhere near, a house or animal
burns. For all I know, you’re gone
for good. But I hold out. Shadow puppets
rehearse their perfect choreography
in my heart. I can’t help it.
I have no words.
Red leaves spread their fever through the trees
and tonight, for the first time,
I lie down alone. Aloneness the body’s own
medication. I will not notice that your absence
enlarges the bedroom walls, or how
the window allows in the large autumn air.
If I prayed, I’d pray: let me leave you, let you
leave me. Tonight I lie, as an animal
should, alone. Tonight I fill my head
with thoughts that do not contain you.
Tonight I ignore the stars that congregate
in a shrug. Tonight I will remember
I sleep, as we all always do, alone.
The first week passes, then two. Soon, it has already been six months. A mile’s distance feels less slog, more flight. Her body in flux, when she reaches behind to scratch a shoulder blade, she feels a thickness, a heft where before had been just bone. New swellings rise—not tumors, as first feared—but muscles, the names of which she has to look up in a textbook: latissimus dorsi, biceps brachii, vastus lateralis, the words long and Latin, like the names of stars. Others comment on the angles now articulated in her face. But it isn’t, as they say, the shedding of an old layer. And it isn’t, as has been said, the angel emerging from its stone. The end product will be a complete transformation: total, and final. Beneath her skin, a new form pieces itself together. The bruises that speckle her limbs bud from within. One day, as if waking from a dream, she’ll find a new face in place of the old. Perhaps with gills etched behind her ears. Maybe fins in place of feet. Or instead of arms: wings.
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