Con su mano serena
En mi cuello hería,
Y todos mis sentidos suspendía.
With his gentle hand
He wounded my neck,
And all my senses were suspended.
– St John of the Cross, En una Noche Oscura (The Dark Night of the Soul)
I met the Bride of Christ, the bruised beauty:
Her eye had a purple halo, and along her cheek
There ran a scarlet cord.
She sat on the end of my kitchen table, smoking a cigarette,
And explained that she’d run into the door.
I poured her a scotch
And another for myself, and we talked.
She told me about the years and months with him
When they were young, and they sailed the Mediterranean together,
And she spent her nights eating apples and figs;
She talked about their Christmases on ragged western islands,
And the elusive spring together on Kyushu.
She said his palms were rough and beautiful.
Her hands trembled as she spoke;
The painted nails were chipped, and underneath
There were grains of some dry substance, glittering.
I asked her about that time in autumn
When their neighbors called in a noise complaint,
Because the yelling and noise of breaking glass were waking up the street,
And she wouldn’t talk to me for a week;
I asked her about the evening after that, when we drank too much coffee,
And she wore a turtleneck in the heat
With the pearl pendant he had given her.
She stubbed out her cigarette, studying the ashes,
And lit another one and changed the subject.
Our drinks fell and rose.
She would not say the specious litany—
‘He just gets a little angry sometimes’ or
‘It’s my fault; I should have had things ready.’
Instead, clear and cool: ‘He’s jealous.’
And, ‘It always hurts like the first time;
I love that.’
I looked down into my cup
And said something about taking her in, if she needed it.
Her smile frightened me, a mouthful of glass;
‘I get my own back.
I’ve dug my finger right through his wrist.’
I thought back to the first time I had met him:
Heat dropping from a dark sky,
A scarlet loveliness running along his throat,
The strangely tilted head, the smell of sweat, the motionless mouth,
His eyes, like hands that reach inside you,
Caressing you—but you can feel the force they’re capable of:
Like running a fingertip gently against a knife.
I understand her.
I am in love too.