It Had Been a Long Exorcism
All night he has rowed their bed back across rivers of fire.
The deal is that if he looks away from her, even once,
she’ll disappear forever. She’s eaten the wrong fruit
and it’s melted her thoughts. She contorts over the bed,
babbling, and everything she says only makes her more afraid.
Alone he’s a coward, but here, with no other choice,
he catches her wrists, strokes away her trembles,
pleads with her seized soul
for hours, wheedling, reasoning, begging,
until slowly her mind climbs back into her face
and her eyes become human again.
She laughs. She kisses him. She lights a cigarette
and parts the curtain. Light slices in;
the glowing window, frosted with white ferns,
resembles a medieval page. In awe she commands him
to look, then slides open the page and leans out high over
the cobbled street—pigeons erupt!—icicles drool brilliant
light onto her inked head, their rugged sheets. She
lifts hands laughing,
swaying. The city is an open-air church,
with houses as pews, and the ringing air celebrates
their close escape, the sweetness of saving
and being saved.
She asks, “Hey…
what was I freaking out about?
It seems so…”
He says nothing.
He soaps his hands in the sink by their bed,
investigates his thorny cheeks in the spattered mirror,
his jumpy hair, the bunched-up red and stinking
eyes. Twenty-two years old and only at the beginning.
He’s pouring coffee when she steals up and
encircles him. They stoop there, worldless,
two skins breathing into each other. Over the next decade
he will explore her labyrinths, debate the minotaur
and then become him. He will garden her mind
till the bees stop eating from her head.
But through all the misery,
through all manner of much realer hells,
the purity of this opening will remain.
While she’s in the shower
he surveys the iron bedframe—their cage,
surrounded by debris. He still hasn’t slept.
He rehooks the sheets, bags the juice cartons,
the gum packs and stray butts,
scrubs her ashtray, shaves in the stained mirror,
and when she washes in on warm vanilla,
all is clean and ready
for their next long journey,
through arctic drifts, to the supermarket,
where the busy shelves are like an atlas
of places they could go.