Once in a while a weak attempt
at romance you do not feel,
dinner out at a restaurant.
A stab in the dark.
The condoms are kept in her night table drawer
inside an old tin of Band-Aids. Her mock coyness makes
you laugh aloud as you reach past the clock,
past the lamp: “Are there any Band-Aids left?”
On your right hand is a scar where one night
you slammed it in the sweat of a wrestle, smack
against her hard stucco wall. It was dark
and you could not see the blood; you could not
feel, you did not feel a thing.
One morning in your own bed you woke to the blood
she had leaked during sleep. You rolled
over and looked out the window, thought of rust-
brown watercolor stains left on pillowcases
from childhood bloody noses and pulled wisdom teeth.
You would not say a thing when she returned
from the bathroom and neither would she. You would hand
her her socks, her bra, and as she sat to dress, and
as she tried a smile you knew for certain
you would throw out the sheets rather than wash them.
Love is naked. It keeps no secrets, has no guilt,
no shame. Sometimes it is fucking with all the lights
on. It is not pretty and it is when you
do not mind that bit of blood on the sheets.
You have not known love for a long time, you think,
if ever. Only its absence, your weak
needs and guilt; a dried history of fading
notches on strange bedposts.
First published, 1996, in Bread for This Hunger: A Crab Creek Review Poetry Anthology