by Dorianne Laux
In the room where we lie, light stains the drawn shades yellow. We sweat and pull at each other, climb with our fingers the slippery ladders of rib. Wherever our bodies touch, the flesh comes alive. Head and need, like invisible animals, gnaw at my breasts, the soft insides of your thighs. What I want I simply reach out and take, no delicacy now, the dark human bread I eat handful by greedy handful. Eyes, fingers, mouths, sweet leeches of desire. Crazy woman, her brain full of bees, see how her palms curl into fists and beat the pillow senseless. And when my body finally gives in to it then pulls itself away, salt-laced and arched with its final ache, I am so grateful I would give you anything, anything. If I loved you, being this close would kill me.
Waiting for This Story to End Before I Begin Another
–Jan Heller LeviAll my stories are about being left,all yours about leaving. So we should have known.Should have known to leave well enough alone;we knew, and we didn’t. You said let’s putour cards on the table, your cardwas your body, the table my bed, where we didn’tget till 4 am, so tired from wantingwhat we shouldn’t that when we finally found our heads,we’d lost our minds. Love, I wanted to call youso fast. But so slow you could taste eachletter licked into your particular and rose-like ear.L, love, for let’s wait. O, for oh no, let’s not. Vfor the precious v between your deep breasts(and the virtue of your fingersin the voluptuous center of me.)Okay, E for enough.Dawn broke, or shattered. Once we’ve madethe promises, it’s hard to add the prefix if. . . .But not so wrong to try.That means taking a lot of walks,which neither of us is good at,for different reasons, and nights up till 2arguing whose reasons are better.Time and numbers count a lot in this. 13years my marriage. 5 years you my friend.4th of July weekend when something that beginsin mist, by mistake (whose?), means too muchhas to end. I think we need an abacus to get our loveon course, and one of us to oil the shining rodsso we can keep the crazy beads clicking,clicking. It wasn’t a questionof a perfect fit. Theoretically,it should be enough to say I left a manfor a woman (90% of the world is contentto leave it at that. Oh, lazy world) and when the womanlost her nerve, I leftfor greater concerns: when words like autonomywere useful, I used them, I confess. So I getwhat I deserve: a studio apartment he paid the rent on;bookshelves up to the ceiling she drovethe screws for. And a skylight I sleep alonebeneath, and two shiny quarters in my pocketto call one, then the other, or to call onetwice. Once, twice, I threatened to leave him—remember? Now that I’ve done it, he sayshe doesn’t. I’m in a phonebooth at the corner of Bankand Greenwich; not a booth, exactly,but two sheets of glass to shiver between.This is called being street-smart: dialinga number that you know won’t be answered,but the message you leave leaves proof that you tried.And this, my two dearly beloveds, is this calledhedging your bets? I fish out my othercoin, turn it over in my fingers, pressit into the slot. Hold it there. Let it drop.
–Michelle Teaspilling water from my back,you call and i come.that exhausted walk to reach youbreathless and no i didn’t runto see you, i’ve been smokingtoo much, same thing.another awkward hug in the caras my face smashes your cheekthat i can feel it leaving nowis the saddest, a beautiful eruptionyou could have picked it off the treeand chowedbut you weren’t hungry.feeling it dying away all daymuch worse than the strainingagainst the leash, another gorgeousthing that should not have happened,gone again.
In Cities, Be Alert
–Annie FinchYou may hear that your heartbeat is unevenand let new tension climb around your shoulders,thinking you’ve found the trick for going mad.But try to keep a grip on where you are.Remember: all around you is pure city;try to stay alert. On the wide streets,so empty late at night, streaking in glass,the color of an alley, or the fallof a sideways flicker from a neon signmay utterly and briefly disconcert you—but as you go, you’ll find that noise is worse.Prepare for noise. But never scream. Even tensingears too far in advance can sharpen sirens,and as for horns. … When you’re back toyour normal rhythm after such encounters,just try to stay alert. You’ll never knowexactly who is coming up behind you,but the sudden movement of pedestrianswill finally, of course, be what disarms you.
The Darker Sooner
–Catherine WingThen came the darker sooner,came the later lower.We were no longer a sweeter-herehappily-ever-after. We were after ever.We were farther and further.More was the word we used for harder.Lost was our standard-bearer.Our gods were fallen faster,and fallen larger.The day was duller, dullerwas disaster. Our charge was error.Instead of leader we had louder,instead of lover, never. And over this riverbroke the winter’s black weather.
–Billy CollinsJust as in the horror movieswhen someone discovers that the phone callsare coming from inside the houseso too, I realizedthat our tender overlappinghas been taking place only inside me.All that sweetness, the love and desire—it’s just been me dialing myselfthen following the ringing to another roomto find no one on the line,well, sometimes a little breathingbut more often than not, nothing.To think that all this time—which would include the boat rides,the airport embraces, and all the drinks—it’s been only me and the two telephones,the one on the wall in the kitchenand the extension in the darkened guest room upstairs.
A Fixed Idea
–Amy LowellWhat torture lurks within a single thoughtWhen grown too constant; and however kind,However welcome still, the weary mindAches with its presence. Dull remembrance taughtRemembers on unceasingly; unsoughtThe old delight is with us but to findThat all recurring joy is pain refined,Become a habit, and we struggle, caught.You lie upon my heart as on a nest,Folded in peace, for you can never knowHow crushed I am with having you at restHeavy upon my life. I love you soYou bind my freedom from its rightful quest.In mercy lift your drooping wings and go.
–Babette DeutschWhat do we need for love—a midnight fireFlinging itself by fistfuls up the chimneyIn soft bright snatches? Do we need the snow,Gentle as silence, covering the scarsOf weeks of hunger, years of shabby having?Summer or winter? A heaven of stars? A room?The smiling mouth, the sadness of desireAre everywhere the same. If lovers goAlong an unknown road, they find no lessWhat is familiar. Let them stay at home,And all will still be strange. This they knowWho with each heartbeat fight the fear of change.