Telling You Why

(for Alejo)

penetration passes through me
like a shiver of fever,
a blaze of tequila reposado
blooming and warming on the tongue,
a napalm lily.

‘why don’t I ever see you write poems?’

how do I answer?
to be a poet, a writer must love —
even Dickinson in her chosen cloister
embraced the world of ghosts she spun —
but the love that brings rest to the heart
brings sleep to the wildmind of the poet.

I stretch out on the rich loam of you,
laze in your sun.

I’ll tell you tomorrow.

I wake to watch you dress for your day. In
streaks of Wednesday light
a tattoo shows faintly through the clean
white of your shirt.

I say nothing.

If I had /
when I do:

The serenity that plows the poet under
germinates poetry in its time.

(2005)

Alejo and I weren’t married long; we got married for the wrong reasons, though we both meant well, and we’re still friends. While we were husband and wife, a kind of hot-summer peace fell over me. Conventional wisdom says I should have been unable to create in that state of mind; instead, I wrote my first “keeper” in two years, and after the marriage ended, it would be four years before I wrote another.

The poem happened simultaneously with the realization that I was defying the standard idea of what happens to a poet at rest; that realization found its way into and eventually became the framework of the poem, which started with waking to see the muted outline of a tattoo on his biceps through the sleeve of the white dress shirt he was putting on.

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