Hell of an exit,
Orpheus: after all your bang and bluster,
Your gusty minstrelsy that never met
An exclamation point it wouldn’t hustle,
Never skipped a hard stress, pencil gripped
In your prizefighter fist, fit to muscle
Your words through the very paper ripped
Under your scrawl—after all the hours, O,
Years your golden lyre held me rapt,
To hear you hush to a shallow schwa
Of breath. And then, at the end, to no sound
At all, soul punched through the paper you
Had become. In the mirror I catch the stunned
Blank of my face: hell of an exit wound.
The first time I lost you, you were a man
With the mind of a wolf. You’d snarl and bare
Your hipbone for the nurse’s swift injection
Every month, the plunger flooding its flare
Of false wrath into your blood, your body
Jacked up on testosterone then made poor
Of it, your feral temper lunged at me
Then slunk away ashamed. O, the Lupron
Ran alpha alongside you, fanged its way
Into our every private conversation,
Our threefold mouths howling helpless rage
Beneath the helpless stare of each full moon.
When it passed, confounded and estranged
I’d clasp your paw in mine, tight as a pledge.
You were my song, Orpheus. I don’t mean
That yours were the only words in my ear,
The only sound to crank the strict machine
Of my desire, pulse to my cochlear
Shell that shocked down to the trembling
Underworld of me. I mean your ear
Was the imagined vessel of my song
And now I don’t know whither it should go,
Or what to say, or why. I’m using
Form to trick myself—this baroque combo
Of Dante and the sonnet like I’m not
Just lurching around, lost in a wood, no
Direction, no guide—into thinking that
Your loss is just a puzzle, and I can solve it.
Forgive me, Love, that laughter first I gave
Myself to fully while I fresh was grieving.
Forgive my deft forgetting to be grave.
Forgive my first joy, fragile-seeming
As the strawberry vine but finally
Proving hardy, through the late frost spreading
As the strawberry vine. And forgive my
Rediscovering one undistinguished day
Abundance, baffling and sudden; dumbly
Receiving it like a gift I did not know
That I could ever want again: Enough
Finally to step into the workaday
Dazzle, to feel enriched by its thrift.
Forgive my turning back, my love, to life.