The Theater of Night
Explaining a Husband
They say two people aren’t always two people.
That’s what I’ve heard. Sometimes, two people,
They’re the same person in two places.
And it’s not that they have to love each other—
They don’t. But no matter how they feel,
Whether they love each other or hate each other,
They still have to be together.
If not, they spend their whole lives, every day,
Looking around at everybody they pass,
On the chance that one person might look back
And hope that in the flicker of that moment
They’ll both know it’s them.
We’re like that, I think, he and I, that husband of mine.
We’re like that now, even if we didn’t start that way.
We used to love each other.
But now it’s something else, something more.
We know each other’s life. And when we talk,
We are each other’s story.
Her Secret Love, Whispered Late in Her Years
Gravity wants me.
Gravity can’t get enough of me.
Every time I try to leave,
It finds a way to make me come back.
It shows up wherever I go.
It’s always been this way.
It keeps trying to wrestle me to the ground,
Sometimes catching me by surprise at the ankle.
It makes me laugh and sometimes I give in.
This thing that wants me,
This magnet to my body,
This amorous creature—it is a beast.
But I would miss it if it were not there.
I pretend otherwise, but it has turned me.
I am the one, now, being drawn to its arms,
Not simply it to me. I have heard it
Speak my name at last.
I have opened the front door to it.
When I was young, headstrong and full of stars
I ran from it, not ready for any embrace
More than the necklace those stars made for me.
But gravity, not the stars, caught my tears.
It has brought my hair down
And made my summer dresses fall from me.
Each time I was with child,
It whispered my name in the night.
As I grew a little heavier through the years
It only asked for me all the more.
I never told how I have felt it with me
In every step I’ve taken. Longest companion, unswerving,
It has never left my side, though all else has gone.
Gravity wants me, I used to think,
But I’m the one. I am the suitor I thought it was.
I say very nice things to it now. I am desperate
These days, desperate and ready
To lie down with it.
My Husband Clemente
I saw Clemente this morning in a dream.
It was him, Clemente, but when he was young.
I knew the hard, animal bones of his face.
I went to school with a boy like that and I have an uncle, too.
You’ve seen them, people with so much horse in them still
Even after centuries, so much horse and donkey
In the strong ones, so much spider
In the skinny ones, the way their thin fingers
Move over a piece of chicken.
And it’s not just animal bones in them, animals
And spiders, smooth fish and round tortoises.
These people, they have horse dreams inside, too,
Dream pouches like organs themselves, tucked in
Along with the kidneys and the liver, a third lung,
Pouches and notes, reminders pushed in and held
In between some nerves, those nerves crisscrossed
Like rubber bands around a package.
I saw inside Clemente something of all this,
But then I awoke and looked at him again
He was still some of the Clemente from the dream.
Some of it had come back with him,
On purpose or by accident, there it was
The way the first fish flipped itself or was flipped
Onto land, the way it moved, and then walked,
Like that this bit of dream had come, into light.
With its own arms it had held on to Clemente’s wide back
And hid itself in the big inside of that man.
It moved and it walked and it looked out
From his human eye and his horse eye. I was not scared.
We said no words, how foolish that would have been.
I took Clemente’s big hand, to my mouth and to my hip.
It was this that he understood, and I knew it.
I Heard Him with My Back
He spoke to me through my back.
I heard him as loudly as if he had put his mouth to my ear.
The trick at first was easy enough,
His writing letters and then words on the full of my skin
As I lay with him but faced away,
Pretending a small fight or some petulance or sleepiness.
Then it was when we were standing,
Alone at first and I was laughing quietly at what he was saying
In this easy language.
But after that he began to make me laugh, too,
Outside, when we would stand with small groups
Making ourselves invisible in the crowds of the plaza.
But then it was in our living rooms,
Standing with our parents and everyone else,
Standing with the neighbors, all dressed up—
And him, saying what he was saying,
Loud as anything there on my back.
After all our days and months together,
My back heard him better than my ears.
My back understood his hands.
When he spoke to me like he did and where he did
As we stood in these living rooms in front of everyone,
He made my mouth make a noise.
My half-words made no sense to anyone, so they would hush me.
They would give me looks with their eyebrows tight and low.
These noises made no sense,
These small, volcanic risings that came out of me,
They made no sense to anyone but him.
He knew what I was saying, what I meant,
What I could not help but say.
I was answering his questions
Right there in front of the world and in the open air.
Right there I answered him.
This was at first, before we married.
After the months and then years of learning this alphabet,
I could hear his hand even when it was not on my back.
I could sense it coming to my back when he was behind me.
I began to feel it
Even when he was across the room from me.
He would look at me but his look was not hard, not like the others’.
When I would see him looking at me that way—
I felt that look too as his hand on my back.
It began to happen later even as I heard his voice from another room,
That his voice came through the doorway to me,
That his voice came through the walls to me,
That it reached my back as his hand.
Finally, through the years,
That voice did not stop at my back—it entered me
Through the shoulder blades
And made its way into my spine and then into my dreams.
It was his hand, and it spoke
All these years what his mouth could not say.