After you turn out the light, we lie
silent, not touching, face up
on our side-by-side pillows like effigies
of gentry on their tombs, as if
waiting for the Second Coming,
as if our devotion and our faith
could save us. The weight
of what’s awry between us lies
on my chest like a cold, flat stone.
Facing our bed is a framed print by Klimt
which I bought because I craved
what Klimt depicts: the couple
standing clasped, enfolded, glinting
gold. The lavishness of that embrace,
its public privacy. His back is turned,
her upturned face half-hidden
by his arm. Her eyes are closed.
His coat of many colors covers her,
as if that’s all they’ll ever need.
I can’t see the painting, in the dark.
Tonight, in any case, it would mock
my good intentions. Marriage tonight
is anything but bliss. It’s wedlock’s
deadbolt clanging on my discontent.
Shackled to one another, to this ache,
maybe for life. In Spain, the word
for “handcuff” is the same as “wife.”
There’s another painting in our room,
a wedding-present from my parents:
Crib Goch, a knife-shaped mountain ridge
in Wales, one people die on.
A spine of rock so slim and treacherous
that many make the traverse
on their hands and feet.
My father loved it, and tried to take
my mother over once, in fog, rain, and gale.
It’s not for the faint of heart
or the vertiginous. My mother’s both.
She tells the story still: how halfway along
she was “cragfast,” too terrified to move.
IN THE DARK, continued
No stanza break
How furious she was with him–
oblivious and fearless, nimble-footed;
how the gap between the two of them
seemed unsurmountable, and how,
to inch back down to safety,
they had to take each other’s hand.