Written by Marge Piercy from the book Stone, Paper, Knife (1983).
You hand me a cup of water;
I drink it and thank you pretending
what I take into me so calmly
could not kill me. We take food
from strangers, from restaurants
behind whose swinging doors flies
swarm and settle, from estranged
lovers who dream over the salad plates
of breaking the bones in our backs.
Trust flits through the apple
blossoms, a tiny spring warbler
in bright mating plumage. Trust
relies on learned pattern
and signal to let us walk down
stairs without thinking each
step, without stumbling.
I take parts of your body
inside me. I give you
the flimsy black lace and sweat
stained sleaze of my secrets.
I lay my sleeping body naked
at your side. Jump, you shout.
I do and you catch me.
In love we open wide as a house
to a summer afternoon, every shade up
and window cranked open and doors
flung back to the probing breeze.
If we love long, we stand like row
houses with no outer walls.
Suddenly we are naked.
The plaster of bedrooms
hangs exposed, wallpaper
pink and beige skins of broken
intimacy, torn and flapping.
To fear you is fearing my left hand
cut off. The lineaments of old
desire remain, but the gestures
are new and harsh. Words unheard
before are spat out grating
with the rush of loosed anger.
Friends bear banner headlines
of your rewriting of our common
past. I wonder at my own trust
how absolute it was, part of me
like the bones of my pelvis.
You were the true center of my
cycles, the magnetic north
I used to plot my wanderings.
It is not that I will not love
again or give myself into partnership
or lie naked sweating secrets
like nectar, but I will never
share a joint checking account
and when some lover tells me, Always,
baby, I'll be thinking, sure,
until this one too meets an heiress
and ships out. After a bone breaks
you can see in X-rays
the healing and the damage.