One year of my life seems to me now entirely the time before a lover arrived. After I’d shower I’d read prose—how sharp the syntax then, how easily ideas seemed to have been composed—before the phone would ring and the door admit the shiny dimes of his button fly, the economy of narrative.
Fragments of small talk: slowly they’d gather their modest eros before the mattress bowed under the weight of him, taking off his shoes. They’re still on my shelves, the books I didn’t finish, marked with scraps of paper at page forty or fifteen, whatever interval of understanding I had to myself before what we said was said.
As lavender is most fragrant when crushed, a poem is broken language, lines characteristically riddled with silences. Inevitably, he’d talk in the nervous way a page of prose has of being voluble, over-full. I remember waiting for him to be white space, the place where the line breaks to let in what isn’t finished, what might never finish making sense.
“Kiss” seems an inadequate word for what we did. It didn’t begin with the crack of teeth, didn’t skip the illicit with a middle ĭ too short to arouse, and the hiss at its end is a mean finale. Where is the long vowel that opened our mouths with ah at their centers? Where is the word that meant beginning felt it might last as long as aria, a soprano’s melisma at an opera’s climax? How thick to sink into the thorough O of his throat, its texture so like what lies at the poem’s margin.
It is not solely story and it is not only a song, and if to fuck is to cross genres, getting from A to B is the least of it.
There is rhythm in a list: alliteration, armpit, ass, assonance, aureole, belly, blowjob, character, climax, cock, cockring, condom, conflict, consonance, cum, deep-throat, denouement, detail, dialogue, earlobe, flirtation, foreplay, fucking, glans, grammar, hair, hand-job, hard-on, hip, image, jockstrap, kiss, knee, licking, line, line-break, lip, love, lube, metaphor, meter, moan, mouth, muscle, nape, narrative, nipple, penetration, plot, pubes, rhyme, rim-job, role-play, scene, sentence, setting, simile, spit, stanza, sucking, summary, suspense, sweat, syntax, tendon, tenor, tongue, vehicle, yes.
There is rhythm in a list, and if the bed rocked and listed under the abecedarian of us, it was with a motion that meant we weren’t going anywhere a sentence could follow. As with the space between numbers that’s infinitely divisible, and that means, upon setting out, we should never arrive anywhere, my thighs parted whitely and he entered me and minutes fissioned, seconds split each from each, time the sunder of under the weight of another.
Sex was the virtuoso whose muscle memory leaves him free to think about music, not technique—it is hard to say where our minds went, together or alone, toward or away from each other, but we were within narrative and paying no mind to it, and wasn’t there pleasure in being prodigals with the instrument? Wasn’t some song wrung from our meeting; weren’t we lave and lavish; weren’t we plush, pelvis, dental and labial, gum and tooth and tongue? How sacrum we were, it seems now, how integument.
To be lovers but not in love was the clock’s hands touching the numbers one by one, and if pornography is the gratuity of narrative, then our fucking was sub rosa, a scent set to flower beneath our skins and heat enough to taste it.
On occasion, mistaking momentarily the exactitude of his attention, his skill, for affection, and wanting to—so local and warm, his mouth on the small of my back before it began to round and cleave and lead him downward—I would need to stifle a small sorrow that we were ever nothing more than lovers, how there was a refusal of attachment in him the way a sentence cannot be endlessly revised, extended clause by clause, its pleasure its delay, a dallying before the shock of its ending full-stop.
It is not regret to write this—it is a sentiment that can’t talk with its mouth full of cock.
If this were prose, there would be a titillation of expletives and the inevitable money-shots in gluts slick as adjectives; there would be the relaxed gratitude following ejaculation and the scent of salt and iron, the rough tongue of a towel after.
If this were prose, there would be the humor of his hair at odds with order and name-brand clothing I helped him into, his shoes and the kneeling required to tie them; his belt would buckle around how eventually the sidewalk emptied onto a busy street where his little car leaked teaspoons of oil.
If this were prose, it would attempt a semblance of speech, little iambs of Goodbye he said I said he said.
If this were prose, the door would close and restore my silence. Our sweat would dry on my skin, and it would take with it my name in an exit so complete, each time I write I wait for it to begin.