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How the Earth Loves You

David Waltner-Toews
From:   The Fat Lady Struck Dumb. Brick Books, 2000.

One day, perhaps when you are
in your forties, he is at your door
with a spring of daffodils.
Another day he bears lilies,
or jack-in-the-pulpits,
every day a flutter of fresh petals
and another scent whispering
at the skirt of your hair.
He seems disconcertingly traditional.
He brings roses, for instance, red ones.
You are bemused.
You look past him, sheepishly,
to the shapes of clouds,
to the paling blue sky.
When your eyes return from flight
you see your hand is bleeding,
you are clutching a sprig of thorns,
and he is gone.

He returns with fat red tomatoes,
waxy green peppers, a peach pressed firmly,
gently, from his palm to yours.
You can still feel the scars
from his roses. Your hand retreats.
Your fingers brush.
Your breath like a wave curls under, tumbles,
pulls back. Your belly tenses.
You are surfing, barely skimming the sand,
an unspeakable fear swelling your tongue.

Do not speak it.
This is what you were made for,
the heat of his gaze on your fore-arm,
burning your cheek.
You feel the slack first in your knees,
then your back. Do not succumb.
The best is still to come.

In the fall, he leaves in a glorious swirl
of gold and rust, amid the chatty travel songs
of migrating birds. You ache in his absence,
raking at the unreachable pain
in your chest. When you think of him,
you balk at his easy certainty,
his knowledge of your desire.
You delight in the melting snow-flakes
that catch in his hair.
You sigh at how his breathing undulates
under the white quilt. It is enough to lie
in bed on a slow Saturday,
to know he will come, his cool palm
stroking your belly, your breasts,
unexpectedly clutching your breath
as if it were another bouquet.
Do not hasten his wooing.
He will come soon enough.
You must not speak his name.
Only when you slip life's pearls
through your fingers, like a rosary,
counting the day after day
of his unfailing courtship,
when you have ached for him
in all the little things - in how you walk,
how your fingers probe a place for seeds,
how your cheek presses to his hard belly,
how you touch the mound where new life stirs —
only then will you be ready,
the light will break through
and the darkness, together,
and you will understand, finally,
who it is who has loved you
all this time, so well.

David Waltner-Toews' works copyright © to the author.

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