“What I like to do: remain lucid in ecstasy.”
Don’t their eyes tire of each other?
Or is it not the eyes that tire?
They’re not looking, they’re drinking,
communicating through their skin
several inches apart.
Love can’t be trusted.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
They linger over coffee; he strokes
the back of her neck; she doesn’t feel
impelled to look up or stop but, later,
she kisses him behind the ear.
And in the mountains there is
snow melting to get down from the heights
to pour through the clefts in the twisted
rocks: natural arches, obstacles—horseshoe shapes.
And in the plains there is
a dropping of the shoulder-armor,
a tingling in the hip sockets, so that even a chance touch
at the hipbone startles the center and starts
a slow convulsion—
release of two creatures
(peculiarly, perilously at odds),
used to training their gaze
on the peripheries, like this
bicycle tethered to a parking meter,
orange handlebars, silver trunk like a treasure chest
perched—not locked—on a wrought iron ledge
fixed over the chrome wheel-casings—
blue shadow-dappled twig-littered canopies,
or the small tantalizing cursive c
in the blue neon soft as silk, announcing
where the couple might return in the voluptuous dark.
The dark, quietly vibrating like a Jew’s Harp,
when they are lost in Olmsted’s
misty, labyrinthine rambles
and, framed by traffic, they pause
beside the lake in the dank air
where the water is still,
world from the blood-running pavement,
the meat-packing plants
gray and dour below the rotting piers—
warped—(and will they be replaced
with fresh wood or fazed out with poured
concrete that knows no give or take—no—swelling—…?)
What can love repair?
By what force of love
can they imagine themselves beyond
the squalor that surrounds them
onto another plane
blessed and blessing!
Who invented ecstasy?
What man or woman
first walked around
with its burden?
Cold shelter from the street,
among the bronze
mailboxes, inside the bright red—
freshly painted—door jambs.
He picks her up under the buttocks,
she arches her thighs around his hips,
plants her feet on the tiles:
tongues firm, yet tentative,
learning their own momentum;
(the rubbery wall of her mouth
takes him further in and in.)
Tongue and tongue, freckle and freckle,
tears, shuddering, swelling
in the places where they used to ache,
“ain’t no cure,”
knowing this touch,
this grave flicking
of tongues could never
be repeated, or knowing
knowing it in another consciousness.
He strokes her neck at the junction
where the occipital bone and cervical spine
cross, engage, spark;
coccyx tingles, cock rises toward
her, not into her, through her, to her;
rises as he plies
the inside of her ass and thighs,
or rubs the crevice where her right
forefinger and thumb divide,
stroking her cheek, or the hollow below her earlobe,
ankle bone, clavicle,
tonguing every millimeter,
until sea dissolves into sky
(their raft turns over
in warm water and they are that water,
and bob, afloat, buoyant;
at rest in secret knowledge of each other’s darknesses…
and now he could weep.)
But there is no ice in the water where they would roil and tumble,
and where avenues welcome those who walk hand and hand,
gait easy, backpacks half-full,
the sun coming out now, as if synchronized to their desire—
and as the runners circle the reservoir
they lower their eyes to adjust to the light
bouncing off the water to ignite
the cinders; the green through the dead-
ice capped leaves;
a small curve, an indent on the track
gleams like a bracelet,
before an azure haze takes over.
It gets warm. She has to peel her Anorak.
She cups her hand over her eyes
in the light and wind off the reservoir,
to see the easy arcs the gulls make as they spiral upward
over the all-angle roller coaster of the rooftops,
in the comforting thud of other feet,
as if lulled by the sound of a lover’s heartbeat;
distraction; she must kick the chain-link fence in order to set
off again, get back into the stream, put her mind back into her body;
her body: slender; deceptive.
There is a power in it she has always known. And feared.
Or feared others would fear.
But it’s difficult, with others, always—just how to say it?
Necessary to hold some one thing back.
Whom could she trust to let it out?
It might scare her. (Scare him.)
From The Couple