Sharon Olds

WHILE HE TOLD ME

 

While he told me, I looked from small thing

to small thing, in our room, the face

of the bedside clock, the sepia postcard

of a woman bending down to a lily.

Later, when we took off our clothes, I saw

his deep navel, and the cindery lichen

skin between the male breasts, and from

outside the shower curtain’s terrible membrane

I called out something like flirting to him,

and he smiled. Before I turned out the light,

he touched my face, then turned away,

then the dark. Then every scene I thought of

I visited accompanied by a death-spirit,

everything was chilled with it,

each time I woke, I lay in dreading

bliss to feel and hear him sigh

and snore. Near sunrise, behind overcast, he got

up to go in and read on the couch,

as he often did,

and in a while I followed him,

as I often had,

and snoozed on him, while he read, and he laid

an arm across my back. When I opened

my eyes, I saw two tulips stretched

away from each other extreme in the old

vase with the grotto carved out of a hill

and a person in it, underground,

praying, my imagined shepherd in make-believe paradise.

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