I lie beneath the sheets in this room
Your parents’ house-six bedroom four baths-
and turn away from the plaster ceiling above
find your tattooed back beside me
Black Latin lettering imbedded in your skin,
briefly explained days ago.
My fingers trace the foreign phrase
secretly hoping they will wake you,
and you will turn to face me,
exhale your warm morning greeting-
Newport breath mixed with stale sleep-
covering your mouth as you yawn,
hesitant to bring your lips to mine-
as if sleep forgot to burden me,
forgot to smear my makeup on your pillowcase,
forgot to run twisting fingers through my hair,
and forgot to plant the seeds of insecurity in my mind,
holes dug by hands that pulled me close last night,
fertilized by post-coital whispering.
Six rooms with beds-I familiar with one.
Familiar with the distance to the pine boards below,
the dark walnut headboard and posts,
the sound of springs shifting beneath restless bodies.
Past the walls-I do not know.
though I have knocked on doors and walked the halls,
bleed from a loose nail on basement stairs,
felt cool linoleum through stockinged feet,
trailed fingertips along yellowing wallpaper,
dug nails in thin faded carpet.
But I think of what I
do not know-
which floorboards creak under naked feet,
the splinters that grow on the deck under summer sun,
the twists and turns of oriental labyrinths,
the sound of rain on the hollow attic roof,
or which window was meant for winter mornings
to watch the snow that fell overnight,
piling in the shadow of this colonial house.,
covering the yard in fresh white-
sheets that have yet to host the fumblings of strangers-
who wake and discover their confident eloquence
replaced with the sober residue of morning light.
But I would not call us strangers-lying here,
as the sun begins to come into focus,
our clothing sleeping on the floor below.
Though I do not know your middle name,
or when you read your first chapter book,
or how you brush your teeth in the morning.
And I don’t know what you think about-
when you hear a passing summer storm,
or see a small wooden cross on the side of a highway,
or smell your mother’s perfume in a crowded party.
But I do know how you hold your cigarette loosely,
that you take your whiskey neat,
where the scar on your right shoulder came from,
and I know how your face looks-caged in sunlight-.
framed by your dark honey beard.
I don’t know what the Latin on your back translates to,
or why a staunch Atheist has a cross tattoo,
but it does not alter the path my finger takes-
slowly tracing the outline.
I wonder if you have six bedrooms, four baths,
outsiders who open the screen door to knock,
who only want to explore the halls,
trail their fingers along the yellowing wallpaper,
dig their nails into thinning carpets,
or discover the kitchen window-overlooking the yard,
that layer of snow covering it all-
raised bumps and white outlines hinting at reality.
Would you answer the door for them?
Let them outline the peeling walls,
comb through pink carpets,
discover the dangers of descending stairs?
Would you show them to the kitchen,
let them identify the mysterious lumps of white-
the meaning behind your inked back,
or why you were ever shot in the shoulder,
or why you say you want to take things slow,
as you ask me to rest my head on our chest,
and pull me closer when you see my hesitation.
Maybe warmer weather will melt the backyard,
the sheets will fall away and I-
standing at the kitchen sink-
will see your trip to Italy,
and the tattoo that followed.
When you begin to wake-I turn and retreat,
My eyes finding the bedside table-waiting-
these objects, illuminated by the stationary sun-
take me to the night before,
the glass of water nearly diminished,
the glass for crushed cigarettes,
the heavy beer cans interrupted by spontaneity.
Your fingers reach my back-
and though there is no path to trace,
they dive beneath the sheets,
find my waist and pull me back,
neither of us reach for the sheets,
and they fall away from us-
spilling onto the floor below.