Where Love Resides

They fall into exhaustion rather than into gentle sleep,
each limb heavy with the ash of its bonfires burned completely down,
not curled but sprawled, claiming all the space of their bed,

two bodies that attempted fusion, both straining to push into
what is impenetrable in the other, wanting the only way they know
to try, to perhaps break through the inherent loneliness of skin.

Now, very late, leg over leg, arm across chest, they breathe deep as newborns,
as if drawing from the stuffy air replenishment after their struggle.  No dreams
tonight.  Instead, only thick flesh, cooling back into their separate selves.

What will they say when they stir back into the world,
conscious, suddenly, of their edges as morning sun floods their sheets?
What will their first words be upon waking?

They each will arrive in the new day alone, surprised, as they were at their own births,
and at death, and as after each sleep, utterly bound in the locked rooms
of their bodies. Will they recognize their loneliness?  Will they speak of it?

For this is the most fragile moment, with mussed hair and sour breath,
when wild abandon has dispersed and the habitual seeing returns
in the glaring light of every day.  Who can they tell?

If love resides anywhere, it is here: in the waking face, the tender hand that reaches
to touch that face.  It is in the gestures they choose to give, and in their decision,
whether or not they will speak, one to the other, of their true need.

-Joanne Esser, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review

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