We couldn't have been married more
than a year. We had rented a room
for the night. Evening had floated in, shadows
tenting the bed where we'd made love
and where the larches outside had tossed
their gold light. We didn't want to move,
and didn't want, I guess, to lie there in the dark,
listening to voices in the next room--
a couple who were arguing over what to do
for dinner. We turned on the TV: elephants
arrived in twos and threes and ran the tips
of their trunks over the bones of what was once
a member of their herd, sniffing, and then lifting
one bone at a time, passing it to one another.
There was hardly a sound--only the brushing
of their heavy feet across the dusty ground
and the flapping of their enormous ears,
as they slapped at flies. "Grief," "reverence,"
the more mundane "sadness"?--were these possible
we asked ourselves as we watched.
We didn't suppose they knew what we know
and yet, when one elephant nosed the skull
ever so gently, touching it with such slow
and unbearably delicate movements,
we could not help but see the loved contours
of a face being remembered. Twenty years ago
or more?--that memory, recalled again now,
and continued. And here we are, in our own bed,
the day cooling around us, our three boys
knocking around a baseball outside, bantering,
testing their muscling bodies against one another.
There's the strange nearness and distance
of clouds framed in our window, and the dusky
conversation of swallows in and out of a spruce tree.
When a truck jangles by on the dirt road,
its radio playing too loudly, we find ourselves
singing the words of a song we cannot name.
You're resting your head in the crook of my arm
and lightly brushing your fingers against my lips,
tracing the rise of my high-boned cheeks--
a motion so familiar by now your hand seems part
of my flesh. For a moment the whole of life
seems here, beside us, with the diffusion of light
at our window. "What are you thinking of"?
you ask, and with the unmistakable sweet hum
of our bodies in mind, I say, "married love,"
but hear, once the words are out, their odd
redundancy, and then how they are bound
to one another, like our bodies that will part us--
their counterpoint of grief and comfort
like these last minutes before we have to get
supper ready, and call in our sons, the sun down
and casting back profligate light over the earth.
Robert Cording, Ph.D. '77, is a professor of English at College
of the Holy Cross. His writings have appeared in the
Paris Review, Orion, Image, and
the Kenyon Review.
His fourth collection of poems, Against
was published this year by CavanKerry Press.