He learns to crave her body
that it's impermanent.
He's counted her wounds --
the mark on her shoulder the picket sign left
after months of trudging down the stairs
to the latest demonstration,
the rasp in her voice from shouting at traffic,
the way her throat quivers
when she bolts the food
they bought with the part of their paychecks
they were willing to spare.
Swallowing hunger himself,
he hangs a bag by the carport
and casts his thin arms against it, fearless.
At night, he lies awake with her
on a secondhand mattress, the blinds open,
facing the stars and her poster of Schindler
and listens -- never answering --
while she asks
if they would have stood to block the cattle cars.
She tells him love is incitement.
He believes her. Their weekends wind
through cold showers and pipes with the Navajos,
hours awake past midnight on caffeine
with petitions drafted on the table,
her heirlooms, then his
surrendered on the dealer's counter
and turned into cash for the clinics in Sudan.
She leaves for work
and he digs her out of the hamper,
inhales the smell of her
from straps, shirts, her sweatband from jogging.
The early days still haunt him.
Alone in the kitchen,
he replays the First Communion,
high school in the limousine,
the road trips with his grandfather in Texas
when he waved his hand by the window
and pictured empires on the plains.
He holds his eyes steady now,
cool as a sniper, faces down the trucks
that roll looming off the factory farms,
the skyline thick with gas station globes,
savors the hardness of her as she bends
sunburned at the sink in the evening,
the light bulb fading and cans on the stove.
He tells himself, Nothing but a woman,
tells himself, We scavenge together.
Published in College Town (Tebot Bach, 2010)