Friday, July 18, 2014

Perverse Pleasure

Reunion

BY CAROLYN FORCHÉ

Just as he changes himself, in the end eternity changes him. 
—Mallarmé

On the phonograph, the voice
of a woman already dead for three
decades, singing of a man
who could make her do anything.   
On the table, two fragile   
glasses of black wine,
a bottle wrapped in its towel.   
It is that room, the one
we took in every city, it is
as I remember: the bed, a block   
of moonlight and pillows.   
My fingernails, pecks of light   
on your thighs.
The stink of the fire escape.   
The wet butts of cigarettes   
you crushed one after another.   
How I watched the morning come   
as you slept, more my son   
than a man ten years older.   
How my breasts feel, years   
later, the tongues swishing   
in my dress, some yours, some   
left by other men.
Since then, I have always   
wakened first, I have learned   
to leave a bed without being   
seen and have stood
at the washbasins, wiping oil   
and salt from my skin,
staring at the cupped water   
in my two hands.
I have kept everything
you whispered to me then.
I can remember it now as I see you   
again, how much tenderness we could   
wedge between a stairwell   
and a police lock, or as it was,   
as it still is, in the voice
of a woman singing of a man
who could make her do anything.