Monday, March 30, 2020

measure

"Measure" is a poem about my true love, Mario.

At the Cairo Hospital...looking at my true love.

February is the show month, when
some couples choose to measure love:
“He took me to that waterfront 
restaurant with candle-light and violins!
He gave me long stemmed roses! 
 A two-carat diamond!"
 He knelt when he proposed! 
We made love in front of a roaring fire...
Measures of love, compared and pitted,
spurred talons sharpened,
greased feathers glittering.
I don't want to play. 

My true love doesn't like waterfront restaurants,
not after a messy incident, when
I ordered Maine lobster at market price.
He doesn't do diamonds, not after seeing the mines.
He gives me potted, living roses,
and says he's "not gonna fall for that
overpriced crap that'll be dead in a week"
and means it.
His idea of a roaring fire
is at the end of a good cigar.
But, he puts the seat down,
replaces light bulbs,
and has strong arms. 

These arms once supported me,
all of my weight, as I
tried to act normal, plodding
up stairs in Cairo—uneven stone steps,
in front of the hospital—littered
with candy wrappers. Women in
black-wool hijabs looked up at me,
their eyes begging me not to touch
them, their hands tucked beneath
their dresses, not outstretched
(too afraid? too wise? did they think I was cursed?)
leaning away from my shadow
as we passed.
Those arms around me, he pulled my
weight up so my feet
would be lighter. The women, with
those expressions made me believe
I was dying.

Weak from blood loss, no fluid
would stay, no water in my eyes
or my body. It took all the strength
in me to hold on to my true love,
whose arms were around me, supporting me.
The primal scent of perspiration,
his one hand clasped over mine, holding me up.
So many stone steps between us and
the surgeon and we had to stop twice
and when I cried the women hid
their faces. We had to (could we?) stop
the bleeding. 


He kept whispering: “A few more steps, just
a few more steps…” And it was one up, and
two up and neither one of us had ever
been there. He whispered, "Just a few more..."
I pleaded to stop and lie down. He shook
his head and didn't feel sorry for me, and the
hospital was there, at the end of the steps,
just like he said it would be.

My measure of romance will always be this.
The strength of his arms and his whispers.
When the self is a weak, bleeding, staggering
thing, and the world is a bleak place with
long, stony paths, all uneven, he steadies me.
Even more, he believes I can do it and tells me,
and I get there with him, one step at a time.
He knows my pain and walks beside me
anyway.

On steps like these,
too weak and bloodless to stop crying,
with nothing left to give, he asks for nothing
and expects nothing. He never leaves.
That is the measure of my true love’s heart.



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