Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Waiting

Now between your eyes
the furrows shine,
while your flushed
oval face floats
above the steaming
bath water.
Your shoulders roll, hips
sway side
to side,
legs stretch, rub together;
you call this luxury;
you pant a little;
your eyes close beneath
a thought. What, I wonder. Tonight
I'm saddened by those two
lines on your forehead,
by the knowledge
that each of their twins
lies here, between my own
eyes. Years
ago a man
and woman
waken their son. The woman runs
into the bedroom the three share and soothes him, while
in the other
room waits the man, who, if
he hears any of what's going on
in the city-
traffic, the neighbor's TV, music
from an upstairs balcony,
his wife lilting
a child's tune--if he hears,
doesn't give it
away, this man
who one day
woke to find his life
hard, and who now
waits standing, too eager
to sit, the apartment too
small to pace, standing,
not to be caught
sitting in a life
toward which he came by device
and bad luck.
Her song ends, but she won't come, so he goes
in, to find
woman and child
asleep on the bed.
He lifts the small body
and lays him in his little bed by the wall.
He lies down by his wife.

I don't remember if he lay there remembering--
I hope he did, it
would have helped--
how they two, one year back, after hours
of rocking the child, an infant then,
began to make love,
and how the boy
wakened crying.
I hope
he closed his eyes to see
how the woman, naked, rose
to bring the baby to their bed, and, lying
with her back to the man,
suckled the boy while
the man lay longing, hard yet, thighs wet
from her, and on his chest
her odor.

By murmurs and thingless words
the mother answers
her son's suckling, his
gulping and mewling.
Rolling towards them, the man
reaches around her waist to stroke the boy's head.
Slowly, she reaches behind
and clasps him, fastens
him to her, while he
half mounts her damp length,
and spills his semen between her knees.
Exhausted, the three
bodies, complicated
thus, sleep a few hours,
until one rises
for work, in light
the color of breast milk drained on the sheet.

Love, these lines
accompany our want, nameless
or otherwise, and our waiting.
And since we've not learned
how not to want,
we've had to learn,
by waiting, how to wait.
So I wait
well, while you bathe.
Feet apart, you squat; shoulders stooped, you reach
beneath to wash, and then I see
the mole on your right side, under your arm,
and I know--such knowledge
beautiful in its uselessness--
that it lies from your nipple
a distance precisely measured
by my left hand,
forefinger to wrist.
Now your legs fold
under, big slabs of water
slide up the tub
then down to clap
your hips and belly.
You sit atop your legs to wash your belly,
loose, soft from lately
birthing again, and streaked
with running milk, that pale fluid,
sweet, iron, astonishingly thin.

-Li-Young Lee

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