Your hand against the small of my back
like an accident, your mouth behind
my ear. Vacant glasses on the table.
And now, right now (feel it?), we start
to lie, like a sprint away from the real.
In two years, you will tell me what happens
tonight, what I can’t know about your body
just by looking. Until then, our pressed faces
will seem to be the first domino of love,
the first in a series of things we knock down
just so we can stop knocking things down.
My skin opens beneath your fingers; we scatter
across the bed in a litter of limbs—all useless,
like prayers. You and I are strangers
in a strange night. We fall asleep together
and dream ourselves apart.
He lets his fingers slide down my spine,
and I remember the pain—soft,
like gold—of waiting for you to take
my hand in yours, for you to admit
to the darkness that you wanted me. Now,
his hands are long words to a literate room.
I need to believe the songs we sing asleep
will survive our bodies,
will rise like vapors from our coffins.
Because if our throats aren’t infinite,
if our voices are really just dice
we cast into the bedroom, then why
should I keep my legs against my own chair?
Why should I let his mouth go to waste, let him
spend himself on dreams? I could lie to him, too,
you know. My tongue would stay the same.
This, then, is how murder happens: you raise
a veil, we divide a cake. We die sweetly, slowly,
with petals and string quartets. We offer
up our kisses like rites, like chores; our lips
are hymns to gods we can’t believe in
and our lives like tokens, children’s games
we never learned to play. We lay the truth
out in slices on the counters and eat
to forget the time we went without.
The truth is a trinket, a bead, a bribe.
And here is how it begins: your body
at the sink, mine at the desk.
When we move, we pace, looking for our lost
faces, brushing past our others in the hallways.
We litter the living room with them—
these ghosts we make, but cannot own.
–Bethany T. Lee (Porter County)
This poem previously appeared in Poetry Quarterly, Fall 2012.
Bethany T. Lee of Valparaiso currently teaches composition, theatre, and professional and creative writing at Purdue University North Central. Her work has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Gulf Stream, Cream City Review, 32 Poems, Crab Orchard Review, and elsewhere. She also collaborates with colleagues from Purdue, Ivy Tech, and the Michigan City Public Library every summer to coordinate a free week-long writing and arts camp for middle-schoolers in Northwest Indiana.
Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem from an Indiana poet every day in April (hand-selected by Indiana Poet Laureate George Kalamaras). Check in daily to see who is featured next!