by Paisley Rekdal
There was a time when I watched it happen.
Strangers pressed to other strangers
in one bed, clothes on, air humid
with the cloying scent of fruit juice
and vodka; none of us
giving into another and yet unwilling to leave the scene
of that possibility,
pretending to sleep, actually sleeping.
Then waking again to slip a hand
over a shoulder, slide a finger
inside the waistband of a skirt; so young
(we are even now still
so young) in that hotel room
turning blue then lighter blue.
We wouldn’t have tried for more:
the kiss, the button; firm, white shape
of an image slipped wholly into the mind,
acted upon, dreamed upon,
filling the thin vessels of the lungs.
Earlier, a film, its forced sounds
of lovemaking. The tension I felt winding
into the muscles of some of the others in the room.
I remember I left for awhile.
We all left for awhile;
even the music was frightening. How
to strip ourselves like that, point
at the places that were wanted, plucked
and peeled; speaking the words, hearing them form us,
the nature of what we were
and could do to each other?
The music, the rocking, the sobbing.
The man called the woman by parts of herself.
Some laughed at this. I remember
I must have been one of them.
In the morning, the hotel room was turning white.
After the long night, hands were slipping
and unslipping, moving over the flattened pillows
as if in hopes something small could still satisfy us.
Someone turned and looked at someone else;
we all heard it. Legs
shifted, sheets slid themselves down waists
or shoulders, tightened again at the necks
of those pretending to sleep as the unblinking sun
crawled in our window.
From another room, coughing,
We all heard it.
Someone looked at someone else.
The room turned white. The air began clearing.
Last updated August 26, 2022