The truth is that he called her worse if only to make her stop. She became a place he once lived and loved but no longer longed for. Then a friend stopped dancing to say, “I don’t know who or when, but someone loved you, once.” And he recalled how she sat on his bed, rubbing his back in the dark, singing.
Her mother blamed the sun for her dark complexion but didn’t know who her father was. She stopped him, once, in the narrow hall as he made his way in a towel. Still wet from the shower, he held the knot at his waist. Above them hung a replica of Goya’s Naked Maja, and he could see, now, that her mouth was moving. Are you? she asked a second time, her fist rising over his head.
One night, his son woke up and wandered the hall, sobbing. He picked the child up and rocked him until his body stopped shaking. His son who wasn’t his, who looked like her.
You are a fucking idiot, a stupid faggot, she would say, her meaning made clear through pitch and tone, pace and breath, her face pressed close to his, begging to be hit.
After the pain is made
we hang on the line,
your mouth (open)
the crooked tooth. The glass
at your bedside, the long
stem—if I imagine it
empty does this mean
it isn’t real? Buds break
in the California
dark. Don’t go, I’d say each night
as you turned away. One
more story. When will we be
done with our
unnecessary grief? Language
can’t exhaust us. We’ve sung
every pitiful note.
While you wait, the body sleeps. The body wakes. The body will not eat. The body sips. The body is hot and cold. The body is broken. The body is lifted and set down, again. You can hold the body. You can kiss the body, but the body sighs. All day, the body is failing, the mind failing to forgive the body for this failure.
All day, it’s almost over. All day, the body won’t, the body says, No,
to the water glass, but air fills the body
the way light fills the house at night, so those outside know someone is living there.