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First Night

ISSUE:  Summer 2006

for Rohan

My first night home, after
we’d kissed a long time
then drunk half a bottle
of wine, tasting summer
orchard heavy with the heat
they say you must pass through
to enter the gates of heaven,
removing your shoes and cotton
socks for the journey, unbuttoning
your shirt, pearl
by glaucous pearl, we lay
down in the king-sized bed.
I listened to your breathing,
the sound full of teethwhisper
and throatcall,
as if fifteen days apart
had made you a stranger to me,
I leaned over and wanted
you inside me. I pressed
my lips to yours, tasting
amber apple tempered
with a tinge of darker hours,
and our bed touched the tip
of the Pearly Gates. Oh, we
could not stop there, we blew
clouds to the left, celestial
dust to the right, halfexpecting
God to show up
in his marriage hearse, we
stripped away the rest
of our earthly belongings—
chinos, Levi’s, leaf
and vine, we got down
to the silk underwear
of our souls, and before
the locked gates of heaven
we said our vows. No state
lines to stop us, no born-agains
to spit on us, nothing
could keep Guyana from kissing
California on the lips, Georgetown
putting his hands on San Bernardino’s
hips, sea to shining sea, how we fell
asleep like that. But night
won’t let us get away
with such simple joy—your snoring
woke me, and at the threshold
of sleep I heard an infant’s cries
rise up through the floor, as if
in dream the child whose birth
I’d traveled to witness
had flown 2,572 miles east
in his best stretch booties
to be with us here,
on the other side of the country.
And since I’ve always wanted
a child, I try to wake you,
to remind you there is
a future. You grab
my arm in sleep, as if
to keep what’s already yours,
and before I wake fully and know
the sounds growing louder
are hunger cries
from the newborn below,
I remember the pain
of a woman about to shock a soul
from the ethers, place it
inside a body
once only. You
roll away from me, and I
sink down in the warm
indentation you have made.


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