by Tom MalloukTonight I close my book, turn off the light
and settle in beside you, finding in the just
right camber of my pillows and the space
between us the familiar comfort of our life.
I close my eyes, the stage goes dark and I
notice there are just the two of us
in the theatre and you are already asleep.
I listen to the rhythm of your shallow breath.
When we fell in love, I went first. Stepping
from the sidewalk, I darted between the cars
and got to the park on the other side
only to find you had never left the curb.
You are displeased. You have come a long way.
I am nowhere to be found. You are naked, standing
at the water's edge. The water is clear, the quarry
is bottomless. It's mid-May and too cold to swim.
Still, you dive in. When I find you, your goose
flesh and nipples blend seamlessly. We are breathless,
warm only where our bodies meet. You dive down,
your white soles recede into the darkness.
We are in your family's home, sitting at one end
of the dining room table, your parents at the other.
Your father leans on his elbows, listening.
Your mother weeps silently, her hands in her lap.
I am backed into the kitchen corner of our row
house, sprawled on the floor, my head in my hands.
You are lying awake in our bed, face to the wall.
But for the fading echo of slammed doors, there is silence.
Two dream images: a ship runs aground on
a small island (in a week your period is late);
the wrong building materials are delivered to
the house (in a day your bleeding begins).
I am bending over you, looking down.
You are giving birth, pushing. Your left knee
and arm interlocking at my elbows. Her head-
the purple flower of your bloody thighs.
We are camped in the Blue Ridge and the puppy
is lost. We search on either side of the ravine. You
have taken one frightened child and I the other.
We call back and forth as darkness falls.
In the empty great room of the house we designed,
we review the punch list with the builder. My voice
dissipates in the cold drafts. We will move
again in ten years, never having unpacked.
You are poring over photographs: children
posing in oversized shoes and hats, mugging for
the camera; proud parents framing the graduates;
your parents' unlikely last trip to Ireland.
It is still night yet the room is lit
with moonlight streaming through
your grandmother's Irish lace curtains.
Shadows silhouette the far wall. I realize
I have grown old. My breathing is
shallow and you are sitting by the bed.
When you take my hand, I feel your
thin bones beneath my calloused fingers.
Blessings to you and yours.