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Married love: By Robert Cording

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 Consolation, was published this year by CavanKerry Press.

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