How Men Die



Picture this:

You're in bed, 

half naked already, your hand

a trembling bird, nesting

at last in the robe-veiled

small of her back. Your

woman, your wife

of ten long years, married

long enough to know better

than to take a moment like this

for granted, long enough to know

just how unlikely 

such moments become 

in a house with children

being raised like sturdy walls

between you, where jobs

calcify into careers, and where

bills, routines, even shopping, TV,

accumulate like dust in all the spaces

where surprises used to hide. But now,

In this rare moment, your eyes

are tracing the flow

of her hair down the curve of her back, 

and her shoulders, bent forward

because she is not facing you

(she is sitting up, smoking, her back curled away from you)

press her breasts fiercely

against the thin white cotton

of her gown, and fire

trickles up into your hips, your chest, then

down into your legs, and pretty soon

your hand on her back is moving, and words

Fly from your opened mouth:

Your face

is art to me, your body

my temple. Your breasts

my religion, Holy Sacrament, Holy altar

of my Holy Male Desire. Let me

worship you, unbridled. This fire

leaping from my fingers

and my Holy Male tongue

the very song that shaped Creation

the god in me delights in singing 

to the goddess inside you. Let me

play you now like music. Let me

enter you like breath, o goddess!

welcome me like unexpected rain

And then you see:

She has not heard you, as if

your words have strayed so far

from expectations that she simply

missed them, or they

missed her, flitting past

the wall of her back

like tremulous birds, 

tracing one quick flight

around the sturdy room then out

to shiver beneath the eaves of the garage.

And then she speaks:

At your age, she says,

expertly lining up the crosshairs,

don't you think it’s time

you grew up a little?

And then you know:

Her loaded grow up 

will sing harmlessly overhead, for

at your age 

has already opened

like a pit-snare there

in the middle of the bed,

and you've already fallen

further than you could have imagined

when your hand, like a bird,

only moments before,

began its brash ascent toward her hair.

And as the ground swallows you

and the earth closes over you

and the grass leaps up to hide you, and she's

alone there in the bed, but for

a flightless ghost beside her

You can't help thinking:

This is how men die, gradually

impaled on the whetted tips

of a thousand small diminishings –

And you can't help wondering

as your hand, now just a hand,

worms its dull way toward the lightswitch,

how long a lifeless body mourns 

remembrance of a soul, less freed 

to rise like some eternal, fiery bird

than smothered like an unrequited prayer.

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