Monday, March 31, 2008

The Men: Chapter 4 (& 5) ~ 2000

“The only thing I remember about being with Tony was that he changed positions constantly.”

“Rick was bisexual and sometimes that was hard to handle because I’m not used to competing with men.”

“I just don’t get it—I just don’t get it. I feel like I’m constantly being tested. I feel like I’m going to scream—give me a break, God. Give me a break. And then I found out Martin’s coming over tonight.”

— K. E. Hansen

Lying in lingerie,
as you often do in the middle
of the day, you work on The Men
chapter of your autobiography, drafting
in your head, trying to decide how many
can you include, how steamy
should you go. Even leaving out
a few dozen,
sometimes you aren’t sure you’ll be able

to fit the men you’ve loved
in one chapter.

They drift in and out like lifeboats,
docking at your heart,
roping round your body,
then cutting loose after a few
months, most unable to sustain
attachment through the diabetes tidal wave
surging through your life.

With names spanning the alphabet,
and life stories as varied,
the man in your life gives you
energy when you’re down,

someone to look forward to,
phone calls, shared meals,
and warm nights
when your hands can explore
the length and depth of his body,
massage head to toe
face, arms, hands, chest, legs, feet,
express through your fingers
and lips
the joy you feel
in seeing
blindness disappearing in darkness
as you take in with touch
features and contours
of another.

Most float out of your life one night
to the next, but a few stay through passion
and pain to weather a relationship.
Kevin, seven years younger

still living with his parents,
stays over one night with his guitar
and doesn’t leave till two years later.
Zack, a biker with serpent tattoos, loves you
with a steely tenderness,
seeing you through the turmoil
of the two amputations and the stroke,
without breaking open
his own heart.

Yet best for last, comes Martin.
Your cab driver

as you depart from a three-month stint
at a convalescent hospital, the two of you bond
over Buddhism, he a lifelong student,
you a Christian learning Buddhism
in the everyday challenge of living
in your body, letting go of who you were
and wanted to be, every day a giving up
and getting up.

Twenty years your senior,
Martin calls you his “girl,”
introduces you to Chai,
reads to you on Saturday afternoons,
and even when he gets a “lady friend” in his life,
remains a phone call away day or night,
to reassure you that this body
is only a suitcase
for your soul,
waiting to be

Cherishing you like no other,
to the end he takes you to Pleasure Point,
a spot where you used to surf,
still your favorite place in the world.
Sitting on a bench overlooking the ocean,
air thick with seagulls, sea spray, sea scent,
he describes the shade that day,
cobalt blue, dark turquoise, jade green,
and together you gaze out at the surfers,
lying on their boards, waiting
and waiting for the right wave,
then all at once paddling, crouching,
and finally, braced and balanced in the wind,
standing at last.