Under the hollow glow of long fluorescent tubes,
the permeating aroma of dry erase markers,
I could have drawn your nude body
across the clean, white, board.
The whole in separate regions,
I explored each under moonlight
with clumsy finger tips.
I would need to catch each
as it floated to the shallow end of my memory.
Some I would have to imagine,
though I can’t err,
fooled by stimulated delusions.
They may be exaggerated, but
in my memory you are perfect
and I must have possession of my remembering,
if nothing else of you—
They are all.
And the decision.
You were clever
and mercifully cruel to let me choose:
How I would lose you,
how I wanted to hurt over you.
Alone, with my ignorant limbs
stupidly reaching for you across my vacant bed,
my heart, masochistic, still knowing you.
The gravity of an empty space.
Or should I compromise?
my self, my desire,
And my increasing ability to love you.
Still see you, but
at a friendly distance.
Still spend, otherwise lonely hours, with you
but at what miserable cost?
I would not be allowed inside!
I would not be permitted
the sweet moisture of your lips,
and my skin, the wet warmth of your sweat.
You were good to make me feel powerful,
after you took it all from me.
You knew I had no choice but self-imposed exile.
You should know that my hands shake as I write,
but the fire breathes relentless. It is dying
and I will soon put down this torch.
But there is more left.
You cooked for me.
I can smell it on my jacket.
It distracts me from your scent.
I know that will be the last to go.
Neruda wrote, ‘love is so short, forgetting so long.’
I have so much to forget,
and too much I want to keep.
The smell of you will be the last, but
the hardest to experience losing.
I’ll be brave and keep both eyes open;
what you could not do.
What you did was childish.
Worried about the receding years,
you said you wanted to settle down soon.
Why did you send me away?
Your other sin was worse
and less easy to forgive.
I can compare us to a literary couple.
Not Shakespeare’s married martyrs.
They were lucky to both be foolish.
I think of Brideshead Revisited,
of Charles and Julia.
She chose God over him,
you your mother over me.
I wasn’t surprised, little girl
but you interrupted me.
Given more time—
I would have changed your mind.
You could have loved me
enough to deny your mother and her plan.
But I’m already late.
‘that what once was, was and is lost,
is lost in the past, and now will not return.’
We are lost and now we can’t return.
But if we can, if you realize you want to,
we’ll go back there.
I won’t look away.
I won’t hide like you,
behind your fear and your household gods.
Return with me
Cook a meal for the two of us.
I will bring you a flower.
Kiss me across the table.
I will read you a poem.
For my friend. I wish you the strength to put down the torch or the courage to keep carrying it.