“There are many ways to love,”

says the professor with a birthmark

over half his face.

When he paces one way

he is almost handsome,

when he faces left

the red scar is exposed

and a monster leads the class.

“After the war I worked in a closed ward

for veterans: there was a little man—

shell-shocked, nervous, gay—who fell hard

for a big catatonic, and needed a way

to get his attention. One day he began

sitting next to him at meals and dripping

milk onto his thigh. It was a nice try,

but the catatonic didn’t get the symbolism.”

I look around me in the lecture.

I am the only one not laughing.

The professor paces back and forth.



There were days when she lay in bed

imagining a serious disease—something

that would make him feel guilt,

run to her bedside. Then

he would realize how much ...

But at that point even she

could not keep up the fantasy:

he was not a standard man,

would never follow

a standard script. “Oh,

sweet lover, that is why

I am in your thrall,

because you would not be swayed

even by my more drastic ploys.”



On days they had arranged to meet

he would sometimes wake from a dream

that he had been spread with honey

and now could not escape the flies.

For hours after he would catch himself

flicking away imaginary insects.

But he owed it to her, he’d say, the opportunity

to tell him what was in her heart.

After all she had contrived

everything for him, the luxurious flat,

the wondrous job he had always longed for,

the chance for fulfillment.

And all she appeared to demand in return

now that she seemed indifferent to caresses,

was his conversation.

Why she was so hungry for his presence

was a riddle—Lady—he wanted to shout

-- it’s over. Can’t you let it rest?



One night I say, I will find out from where

this unrest ascends. I will let it go

as far out as it wants to pace, see the space

between accepted and haunted bonds.

My heart is caught like an escaped convict.

I am led, head down, back to propriety.



“Are you sure,”

she whispers into the evening

“There is no chance for me?”

And I—in the kitchen,

white with flour and domesticity—

stop to contemplate her affinity

before I shake my head




How many ways

are there, you ask,

the tortoise who tries always

to move forward even when heavy rocks

block your path. Every one of the women

you loved might have brought you joy

had you known to turn from the rocks.

Sometimes only the pressure

of your head against them

drove them to pace

like animals in cages

back and forth.




Having one eye,

you look at me always

at an angle,

turn me this way and that,

examine it all.

We are in our patterned conjugal bed

shrieking in cacophonous unanimity.

It is both a death and quickening,

and then you roll away,

call out the name

of my god.