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 aligning 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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