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The Woman in White Marble

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The Poetry of Being Human

by Dale Rominger


I admit I do not remember the words. I remember leaving the house where we were staying, the red and black Sandinista paint on the low wall, the way the path meandered through the park, the lovers on the bench, the old couple walking their dog, and the Managua night warm and pleasant. I remember our fear had largely dissolved upon leaving San Salvador and we had promised ourselves some time alone once we arrived in Nicaragua. I remember we walked close together, our naked arms occasionally touching. I remember it was a short utterance, just three words. A simple sentence, but nonetheless possessing considerable power. You stopped walking, turned towards me, took my arms in your hands, rose slightly on your feet, and kissed my lips.

I remember the feel of your hands on my arms, the smell of your skin which I breathed in with ease and eagerness. I remember the tender touch of your lips on mine, being so struck by their fullness and softness. I remember how they gave ever so slightly under the gentle pressure of my own lips and how enjoyable and sensual it felt. I thought at the moment of touch that your lips had been flesh that shaped words, but were now, and forever more would also be, flesh that evoked memories.

I remember the kiss was short-lived, but that as our lips parted we hugged. I remember your cheek on mine, the touch and texture of your skin. I remember your thick hair touching my face, my left hand on your back, how very thin your cotton dress felt, my right hand around the curve of your waist just above your buttocks. I remember the pressure of your breasts on my chest, your thighs against my thighs, the slight touching of our pubic areas, my stirring and embarrassment.

I remember all these things but I do not remember what I said that made you stop and kiss me. The three words were not, "I love you." I would never have said such words aloud, not even silently to myself, fearing that voicing them would make love real beyond the confines and intimacy of private souls. Words vibrating in the open air can create that which they carry. I know that I did not anticipate your response to the now forgotten utterance. If I had, I would not have spoken it. I was completely taken by surprise, delightfully and disturbingly so.

Where are those words? What form did they take, what was the structure of that simple and short sentence, and its underlying meaning? I imagine they are hidden within the deep structure of my memory and mind, that a smell or a sight will cause a flashing of synapses and they will instantly appear before me. But where are they hidden and why are they hiding? At times I feel the three words rolling around in my mouth, searching for their correct form and structure which would enable their release. But they never materialise. They never experience liberation.

We continued walking through the park, now hand in hand. I said I was happily married and you said that it would be nice if I had a twin brother. We knew that we both were lying, an abuse of language for which we would be held responsible. But after such a tender kiss, initiated by now forgotten words, lying was the best we could do. It was the first and last time we abused each other so. By the time we landed in San Francisco, words and flesh had overwhelmed us.

The events that had led to a park, an utterance, a kiss, and a lie, had started months before in a sterile San Francisco office. You were late to the first planning session and as you walked through the door we all naturally looked your way. Upon seeing you, words formed in my mind, so vivid I am sure I moved my lips, lips compelled to give form, even in silence, to such intensity. "We must be friends," my mind declared and my lips shaped. Later, much later, you would tell me that the first words that came to your mind upon looking me in the eyes were, "I must stay away from this one. He is dangerous." You did not move your lips.

During that first meeting, our leader had us play confidence building games. We were blindfolded, scattered around the room, and then told to find a companion through touch. We were not to speak. I began walking and reaching forward, until I found myself touching someone. Actually, I had reached out and placed my hand on your breast. You laughed and I quickly pulled off my blindfold.

"Perhaps it would better if we sat and talked." You laughed once again as I apologised and agreed to just sit and talk. 

Months later, after three more planning meetings, a handful of casual conversations, we checked into SFO for our flight to Houston and then San Salvador. The gods blessed my words and not yours because we were randomly handed boarding passes and whether through fortune or design, we sat next to each other for the entire trip.

When we arrived back in San Francisco after only a few weeks, a great deal had changed. The return flight had been intense. We willed time to slow, but still touched down at 2:00 a.m. You were met by a friend and I watched you walk away, I thought forever. We had agreed, said over and over again, that we couldn't see each other upon returning to normalcy. The airport was heavy, tired, empty. I stood alone.

Two days later I was knocking on the door of your small house in Santa Cruz. We sat on the sofa and I tried looking at The New Yorker which was on the redwood table. We didn't touch, but talked, both excited and frightened to see each other. Outside the sun was bright and the sky blue, no signs of warning. Your house was light and open.

While in Nicaragua you had been amazed to discover that I didn't read poetry. You had laughed at my childhood explanation of inadequate tyrannical teachers and limiting dyslexia. So in Santa Cruz you took my hand and pulled me to the floor in front of the fireplace with bookshelf surrounds. You pulled Yeats off the shelf.

"Now listen to this.

He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

Your voice made the poem somehow real for me. We sat silently for many moments, but then finally kissed, a familiar but wonderful experience. Your hand settled on my thigh. We kissed again and my hand moved up the curve of your body to rest beside your breast.

Before long, fingers were, with a sense of both predetermination and desperation, working buttons, snaps, belts, and zippers. As I kissed your breasts, you lightly settled unto your back, lying bare skin against poetic wishes and heavens' embroidered cloth. I remained sitting up, just looking at you and the half exposed book of Yeats. Then, without self-consciousness, you stood up, confident, naked and beautiful, and closed the book. You took my hand and walked me to your bedroom. As we entered the room, you turned slightly toward me, with a sly smile, and spoke.

"I have a great bed."

I went to lie down on that great bed, and you spoke again.


You went to the closet, opened the door, reached up, standing on your toes, stretching your whole beautiful body, and pulled down a quilt.

"This is my grandmother's quilt. She made it with her own hands and gave it to me."

Those were your exact words, spoken casually, conversationally. You spread the quilt on the bed, admired its lights and darks and colours, and then lay upon it. Your grandmother indeed had made a beautiful quilt.

We had never been naked together, never had sexual intercourse. In a short while, however, I knew your body better than I had ever known any woman's body. We lay upon the patchwork quilt spread beneath us and made love, treading on each other's dreams, and on the dreams of her who had pieced and stitched together such beauty. As I lay on you, in you, placed my hand on the side of your breast, you literally swooned, whispering in my ear.

"Yes. I love that. Your hand there. I love that. That's perfect. I love that."

While sitting beside the empty and earthquake cracked swimming pool of the Hotel Alameda in San Salvador, you had told me that you were slow to reach orgasm, but when you did your eyes would fill with tears. True to your word, on that day on your grandmother's quilt, tears filled your eyes. I did not have the courage to ask to whom they belonged.

How do I talk about what happened to us? Our generation had lost its innocence and naiveté decades ago. We were, after all, no Bogart and Bacall safe in a filtered black and white world. We could never now simply speak their words of love, for they had spoken them in black and white once and for all. All we could do, and can do, is speak words layered with history and meanings. We must become linguistic archaeologists to express ourselves. We can only speak now in clichés, risking the embarrassment of sentimentality, for others have spoken in innocence before us. We were, are, a cliché, and we must live with that, in full colour.

You were no Bacall. You were dark thick hair, deep large green eyes, and a round face. You were full lips, full breasts, slender neck, straight shoulders, narrowing waist, wide hips, and athletic legs. You were pubic hair as full and brown as your eyebrows. You were wide hands, not slender as the stereotype demands. You were flat stomach, of which you were exceedingly proud. After we had made love for the first time, you stood on the end of the bed, hands on stomach and spoke with exaggerated pride.

"Look at my stomach. Flat!"

You were laughter, spirit, intelligence, compassion, and goodness. You were so much womanness. It both delighted and hurt me.

You never could be Bacall, but nonetheless, after showering, you leaned against the bathroom door frame. As I remained lying naked on your grandmother's quilt, looking at the curve of your body, shoulder against the door frame, arms crossed under your breasts, nipples brown and relaxed, hip seductively out, right foot crossed in front of left, water droplets in your pubic hair, you spoke.

"I have to go for a bit, but if you need me, just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you? Just put your lips together and blow."

As your lips formed the last word perfectly, I looked quizzically at you, having missed the cultural archetype. I was not familiar with the referent that lay behind your words and had no image beyond the reality of you leaning naked against the door frame. You simply laughed at me, walked back into the bathroom and put on eye liner, the only makeup you ever wore, your lips always natural and tasting only of themselves. Still naked you returned from the bedroom and walked to the closet. You chose a blue dress which you slipped over your head. The dress hugged your body seductively, revealing your shoulders, collar bones and chest. Still not speaking you left the bedroom, grabbed your bag, and went to leave. At the front door you turned and shouted.

"I will show you about whistling tonight when I get back." And then more quietly and with slight hesitation, "If you are still here."

The door closed.

I was still there when you returned after dark. I had fallen asleep on your grandmother's quilt for an hour or so, got up, taken a shower, browsed your bookshelves, and read The New Yorker. In your arms were a bottle of Scottish whisky, chocolate covered Oreos, and the video of To Have and Have Not. After a small dinner, we sat on the sofa drinking whisky, eating cookies, and laughing softly, warmly, gently, affectionately, even enviously, at Bogart and Bacall as they shared looks and words of love. We could not, and more importantly would not, return to that place in human relationships. After all, I was no Bogart and you no Bacall. We realized that, given our feelings and our times, we were left with the cliché to voice and act, and so we did. We pretended that we were living in filtered black and white so we too could experience pure, naive, innocent, uncomplicated love, in an easily untangled world, at least until you broke the spell.

"I want to taste you in my mouth."

Spell breaking words, voiced with throaty experience. But perhaps it is more true to say, spell transforming words, words that transported us from a past naiveté, that we would never destroy, to a postmodern irony, that we did not fully understand. As I heard your words, indeed felt your words, and looked at you, I could not speak words of love in innocence, or pretend that what was happening between us had never happened before. Even though it felt like something universally new, utterly unique, indicating our complete blessedness, I knew it had all been said before. I could not say it as Bogart might have.

"I love you like no one has loved before."

No, I could not say that, but perhaps I could speak with increased layering.

"As Bogart said to Bacall, 'I love you.'"

True it may have avoided false innocence and naiveté, mimicking your earlier imitation in the doorway, but it certainly wouldn't have been satisfactory, and that is our problem. And also, things hadn't happened that way.

When you stood in the doorway, evoking the image of Bacall and an unburdened invitation of the flesh, you did so in stark nakedness and after sexual intercourse. Your nakedness transformed the words Bacall had spoken, and while Bogart's smile hinted at wonder and challenge, my smile more than likely said something else.

"You bet your ass I know how to whistle."

Earlier that day as you stood naked in the doorway, we both knew there were no unburdened encounters of the flesh in our AIDS infested age. And later that night as Bogart and Bacall left the hotel to the sound of playful music, you shattered any last pretensions of returning to past naiveté with your unique utterance.

"I want to taste you in my mouth."

What an interesting choice of words. I thought so then and I think so now. Bacall would have blushed and covered her face with little girl hands, pretending a modesty that she really didn't possess. Bogart would have been shocked and then angered at such an unladylike use of words, though his flesh might have been excited. But then again, their love had not been realized and nurtured in full colour red El Salvador, but in black and white Martinique. It was all filtered and controlled, personal love and political violence. And while they fell in love in danger, there was never a sense of urgency or ultimate consequence. Their clothes were always so clean and pressed.

"I want to taste you in my mouth."

The words themselves cannot carry the weight of literal meaning, they collapse in ruin. Literalism confuses and destroys, leads to absurdities. "I want to taste you..." How to taste? Lick or devour? " my mouth." Well, where else would you taste me or anything for that matter? 

"I want to taste you in my mouth."

They were the words you used and the words we had, and we both knew, instantly and precisely, what you meant. They lingered in the air and you did not blush and I did not become angry.

As To Have and Have Not reached its denouement, your blue dress and my shirt and jeans had been removed. Your grandmother's quilt kept us warm. As Bogart realized that Bacall had not left on the last plane, bra, panties, and underwear found their place on the floor. Wrapped in grandmother's quilt, you said softly and self-assuredly, "I want to taste you in my mouth," to which I said nothing.

We only have our English to speak at times like those, if speak we must. We have beautiful and appropriate words and poetry to express the spirituality of love, even if they are clichés. But we have no such words to express the physicality of love. We have no appropriate words for the flesh's passions. For the articulation of the flesh's love, English is bankrupt, being technical or crude, scientific or violent. Mammary glands, cunnilingus, anus, tits, penis, vagina, dick, cunt, scrotum, seminal fluid, intercourse, cum, vaginal fluid, bush, fellatio, balls, blow job, boobs, eat, pussy, asshole, coitus, vulva, sperm, wang, ovum, egg, cock, genitalia, orgasm, hair pie, fuck.

"I want to taste you in my mouth."

You whispered in my ear and slid under your grandmother's quilt and swallowed me whole as Bogart and Bacall left Martinique for a safer place. Perhaps your words were as poetic as we could be, at least in English. As you ate, and finally drank, I watched Bogart exit the scene, an excited expression of anticipation on his face as he walked beside Bacall.

I resent the fact that I have nothing material left of you, nothing to conjure you magically into my presence. I have nothing that rested on your skin, or warmed in your hands, or lived cherished in your heart. I know too that if I could only remember those three lost words, I would need no such talisman. I know that if I could recall those words spoken in the Managua Park, you would materialise right in front of me. I know your spirit, personality, and body would appear. I know it as beyond belief. I know it because of what we had made between us. We had made love between us, nurtured in the soil and shit of our world.

We made love.

An interesting mating of words, but somehow unsatisfactory. What does it actually mean that we made love? Had sex. Yes, of course, but that's not enough to describe what happened between us. I often wonder how we actually made our love. Naturally, intentionally, intelligently, passionately, compassionately, naively, boldly, stupidly, spiritually, physically, psychologically, poetically? As for what we made: friendship and passion. I have often thought, though not verbalised, that we made, or became, or simply were (which implies we made nothing) soulmates. I know the word conjures for you as well as for me a sentimentality that would make us blush. If truth be told, it is impossible to avoid embarrassing clichés when talking about love. We have heard too many stories and seen too many films to say "soulmate" with ease. We have been in love ourselves too many times. We have witnessed too much brokenness to say "soulmate" without caution. And yet, it is difficult to deny such a reality, or at least the possibility of the reality, between us, and so I say it now.

"You are my soulmate."

Actually, I do have something. A representation of you. A photo I took when we were in the El Salvadoran barrio between the railroad tracks and the ravine. The people, which is to say the poor (the two words are more than synonymous), would squat and make homes wherever they could. Along railroad tracks, on traffic islands, on university campuses, anywhere they could find free space. The barrio was a simple row of shacks, but also a community filled with children, dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, ducks, women baking tortillas on heavy metal sheets over open wood fires, and old men looking out windows. The children, wide open brown eyes just as they should have been, would walk with us, hand in hand, hoping to get their pictures taken.

A woman invited us into her home, an invitation that came without hesitation or self-consciousness. In the entire barrio the people were friendly and open to us, unlike the wealthy who lived behind gun guarded walls in the suburban hills. You were struck by the contrast between the physical beauty of the rich community and the physical ugliness of the poor community. But we both were more struck by the complete openness of the poor and the complete closed-ness of the rich. The richer the people, the more fortress-like were their homes. The deeper we travelled into the rich community the higher grew the walls, until we couldn't even see the houses. No pictures could be taken. Men in corner turrets on high walls placed their automatic weapons aside only long enough to write down our licence plate number. The rich had everything to lose, the poor had nothing. The poor were imprisoned by their poverty, the rich by their wealth.

We accepted the woman's invitation and entered her home, greeted by three children and several ducks. The home itself was only one room. The floor was compacted soil, almost shining from use, swept completely clean. There were a few broken chairs and one table by the back exit. She kept saying what an honour it was to have such guests in her home. As she spoke you translated with effort and care. Back in Santa Cruz, while on your grandmother's quilt, you would say it was not love that kept me so close by your side  in El Salvador but language.

To incarnate her hospitality, she sent her oldest son to a stand at the end of the barrio to buy juice concentrate. The boy returned with a bottle of orange concentrate and poured it into an old pail. He then filled the pail with water, dipped a plastic cup into the liquid, and handed it to you. The woman's little girl handed us both broken pieces of a tortilla. You took a small drink, ate your small bit of tortilla, turned and handed the wet sticky glass to me. We silently  communicated several things as our eyes met. We knew her children would have no breakfast in the morning given the expense of the orange concentrate and our eating the tortilla. We knew also that our bowels would begin to empty at the same time as her children's stomachs would begin to ache in emptiness. And we knew we had to drink and eat. The spirit of hospitality, of giving and receiving, was more important than empty stomachs and runny bowels.

As you passed me the drink, your eyes were filled with tears and your hand shook. I drank, ate my tortilla, returned the glass to our host, said good-bye, and left the shack. My eyes were also filling with tears. In a few moments you came out of the front door with the woman's small baby in your arms. I grabbed my camera and shot quickly as you walked towards me, already surrounded by adults and other children. As you reached me, we both knew a love was growing between us, was being made in hospitality, soil, and diarrhoea.

The photograph is now all I have and you are out of focus. Just behind your left shoulder, looking straight into the camera, is the woman in perfect focus, but you and the child are slightly blurred. Still, I can see your face more clearly in the photo than in my memory. Your thick eyebrows and green eyes. Your lips closed in a smile. Your fingers holding the tiny hand of the child.

As I now look at the photo, I can hear your words with surprising clarity. You handed the child back to her mother, thanked her and said good-bye. You turned, walked up to me, and standing very close, taking hold of my hand, whispered in my ear.

"Eighty-five percent of the world's wealth is controlled by ten percent of the world's population. I take that personally."

It was not what I expected to hear. The words themselves did not easily harmonise with the experience just had, our surroundings, or your gaze, tonality, and cadence of speech. Words more easily read in a text or spoken in a lecture hall, served instead to indict and purge in the dust and heat of a barrio.

Wait! I am mistaken. There is one other thing I have of you. Or more accurately, from you. A postcard of Vincent Van Gogh's The Starry Night. I had told you of the poor person's painter and you sent me the postcard when we had returned to Northern California. I still have it. You wrote only three lines.

"Saw this card & thought of you. Maybe I should go to Amsterdam for my vacation...This guy did good work, didn't he? Your Beloved."

Even now as I read the card, I laugh at your understatement. And now I realize you were laughing too.

We had flown TACA Airlines to San Salvador which offered free food, free drinks, and free movies. We took the food and the drinks but ignored the film. It was a forty-five minute ride in a crowded van from the airport to the hotel. The main road between the airport and the city proper was strategically important and heavily guarded by men in light green carrying automatic weapons. They randomly stopped cars at numerous road blocks. I was more conscious, meaning more uncomfortable, than you about stepping into this new world. Air flight just does not give a person time to adjust. One moment you are drinking lattes in Northern California and the next being stopped by the El Salvadoran military on your way to a hotel.

As they questioned us, a military convoy drove toward the airport filled with "recruits." Definition of recruits: young men kidnapped to serve in the army.

The Hotel Alameda had been badly damaged in the earthquake. The second and fifth floors were closed, as was the lounge on the ground floor. The lifts were inoperable. Both our rooms were on the fourth floor, and they were bugged.

Outside, in the back open plaza of the hotel, we could see large vertical cracks running the full length of the building. We sat by the empty cracked swimming pool on that first evening and drank beer, Suprema Especial. We had talked for hours on the plane, but there was still much more to say.

Though it was warm, I was shivering.

"Let's go inside. You're cold."

"No, no. I'm not. I'm fine."

You laughed at me.

"Don't be silly. I can see you shaking."

What could I say? I wasn't really cold, I had spoken the truth. I was fine. It was just excitement. I wanted more of you. I wanted to monopolise your time. I wanted to touch you, was embarrassed, and you knew it. Did you welcome it? Enjoy it?

But it was more than excitement. It was also fear. Fear of you, fear of where I was, fear of what was about to happen to me. From the very beginning I was unable to separate you from the experience. What we made, we made there, in the experience. I was shivering with excitement and fear, but could never tell you that.

It was January 1987 and we had stepped into death squads and their tinted windowed cars, The Disappeared and their grieving women, earthquake ruin, abject poverty, and soldiers at every turn. The first morning you joined me in my room and we watched from the window a man in his back garden playing with his children. As he played, an automatic rifle hung over his shoulder. In our quickly vanishing American middle class naiveté, we found the juxtaposition of play and violence disturbing. And then, almost immediately, we felt disturbed by our disturbance, painfully aware of our innocence and ignorance.

We left the Hotel Alameda and began walking to the offices of the Committee of Women of the Disappeared. We walked in the attempt to force upon ourselves a kind of post-ignorance hardening. We walked to purge naiveté. There were soldiers everywhere in their light green shirts and trousers carrying automatic weapons. Some ran down the street in formation as military exercises were held in public places. San Salvador was at war with itself, or more accurately, with its poor.

As we passed a marketplace a woman carrying a large flat basket of live roosters on her head crossed our path. We saw people forcing a living out of every earthquake crack of San Salvador. Stands selling food, beer, coffee, candies, fruits, fire crackers, trinkets, posters, and paintings of Jesus. The public buses too had portraits of Jesus painted on their backs. Above the portraits were the words, "The friend who never fails." You talked to young boys moving earthquake rubble with shovels and wheelbarrows supplied by the government. For ten colons a day they shifted piles of rubble from one place to another, but never away. Men were demolishing earthquake torn buildings with their bare hands, the only tools available. Buildings leaned at frightening angles. Various gatherings were held in buildings whose walls had disappeared in the quake. As a result, we could see surreal scenes of people sitting on folding chairs arranged in rows or around tables holding meetings in open air slanting rooms.

We paused to step inside the earthquake torn Cathedral. As we entered, you spoke to me.

"You know Oscar Romero was assassinated as he preached. T.S. Eliot said, 'But the Son of Man is crucified always/And there shall be Martyrs and Saints. '" You did that. Quoted poetry in normal conversation.

On the broken plaster exposed wall was a crucifix, next to it a large hole and daylight. A poor old woman on her knees, head bowed in prayer, shuffled toward the crucifix. Tourists took her perfect picture.

The offices for the Committee of Women were on the first floor of an old and hot building which was, however, intact. Each day women would meet in these offices before going to the city dumps to look for their children, husbands, brothers, uncles, cousins, friends. There was a kind of insane order and brutal routine to the search, for the torturers would leave their mutilated victims in particular dumps. Still, it was the Committee of Women who were considered subversive and threatening, not the men who drove through the city picking up whomever they wished, whenever they wished, for whatever reason they wished.

We were greeted at the door and welcomed. Sitting in a semi-circle around a small table we looked through photos of tortured victims, disembodied and dismembered loved ones in sharp focus and full colour. We were disturbed, upset, derailed. What is the word? The purpose of the viewing was not voyeurism, but the Committee's demonstration that their utterances were valid and true.

When we had finished with the albums, a young woman was brought in. She stood before us, a small child on her hip. Another woman introduced her and told her story. Her husband had been taken from one of the Jesus buses two days ago, thrown in a car with tinted windows, and had become a Disappeared. We all knew if he did not appear at home or in prison by the next day, he would eventually be found on the garbage dump, and become a photo in an album shown to American and European visitors. The spokeswoman said that in the last week thirty-two bodies had been found in the dumps. The young woman, numb with fear and weary from weeping, said nothing, did nothing. You searched out my eyes wanting to hold my gaze, but I turned away. The spokeswoman spoke again, this time with some anger.

"Our only hope is our words. Our only weapon is our voice to shout to the government, 'What has happened to our children, our husbands, and our brothers?'"

Both the El Salvadoran and United States governments did all they could to silence this weapon. They assumed if these women were made speechless we, , and perhaps even they would forget their lost ones and cease to visit the dumps. Their words made such a fuss, were so offensive.

"Our only hope is our words. Our only weapon is our voice."

That afternoon we would visit the United States Embassy, an entire building covered in chain link fence, planters and walls making three layers of barriers which had to be overcome before reaching the entrance. Guards frisked us before we entered the door, but as we entered, to our right, we saw a Marine standing in a glass enclosure. He was framed in a window. He stood perfectly, completely, utterly still. His eyes did not blink. We could not see breath either enter or exit his body. Nothing. No stare or word could move that immobile figure. Against such a living dead representation, against frozen flesh, there seemed no weapon at all. The local people called the Embassy "The House where the Landlord Lives."

"This dead man is guarding the landlord. I feel sorry for him. He is dead."

I didn't feel any sorrow for him. It was, no doubt, an honour to stand there. Perhaps a privilege. I keep thinking of the prostitutes I had seen in Amsterdam windows. Human beings on display, for sale, prostituted.

You asked if the United States could not help the Committee of Women for the Disappeared.

"There have been dramatic improvements in the area of politically motivated deaths, but we cannot interfere in an internal war."

 I asked about the CIA's fourteen million dollar contribution to Duarte's campaign and the one hundred million in U.S. aid to El Salvador.

"The United States has a right, an obligation, to help a friend."

"Our only hope is our words. Our only weapon is our voice."

The guard did not breathe. He was sealed. Nothing could touch him.

You translated the woman's story of her Disappeared husband with considerable difficulty. Some asked if there was anything they could do and the woman spoke for herself for the first time.

"I do not need another friend I will never see."

Suddenly, someone took her picture. The light flashed in her face. My head jerked, my eyes seeking your face. You were furious.

"Our only hope is our words. Our only weapon is our voice."

I couldn't breathe. I left the room and went outside. I needed desperately to breathe and found that I had lost my voice. I could not speak when you came to find me. You did not force me, keeping silent yourself. We were being made over.

I was grateful you didn't hate me, standing outside the offices of the Committee of Women of the Disappeared. I took your hand and we began the walk back to the hotel. I don't think anybody noticed. If they had, perhaps they welcomed the insignificant gesture of tenderness. I was simply pleased I could hold a woman's hand, and was further pleased it was yours. How could it be anyone else's? We were in this together, being made over in a different image together, searching for words and a voice to speak together.

Near the end of the pier in Santa Cruz there is a small restaurant that you said was famous for its clam chowder and sourdough bread. I had spent the night with you, warm and protected under your grandmother's quilt. In the morning I watched you take a shower and I can still see your face lifted into the water, your hands on your neck, water running down your body as you soaked in the hot steam. I helped you dry and then took a shower myself, during which we spoke for the first time about your desire to return to Nicaragua.

The conversation made me quiet for the rest of the morning and, I think to change my mood, you suggested we have lunch on the pier. Of course we had clam chowder and sourdough bread, and, to make it near perfect, Anchor Steam beer. As we ate and talked, the seals swam and sunbathed below us.

It was over this lunch that you first spoke of laughter.

"I love laughing with you."

Laughing is what we had been doing since leaving the house. Forgetting our nightmares and sins and laughing until we cried. I wonder, could you have said it differently?

"I love you because I laugh with you."

Or, perhaps this.

"Laughing helps us make a love between us."

It is difficult to know what or where is the beginning and the end. Did love create laughter or did laughter make love? Did words result in flesh or did the flesh form the words?

The night before, you had pulled me by the hand from the sofa to the floor in front of the fireplace with bookshelf surrounds. You took Yeats off the shelf and opened it to the poem He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven. You were just about to begin reading when a single word escaped from between your lips.


You disappeared into the kitchen. A few moments passed and then you returned with an opened bottle of red wine and two glasses. I poured the wine as you began reading.

It is interesting to me still how your reading, your voice, helped me appreciate the poem. We sat silently for many moments and drank wine. I refilled your glass and you began to speak.

"I love that poem. It first appeared in The Wind Among the Reeds entitled 'Aedh tells of the Rose in his Heart.' In Irish Aedh is fire, a fire burning by itself. Yeats said that Aedh is the 'myrrh and frankincense that the imagination offers continually before all that it loves.' And I quote."

You smiled, lifted the glass to your lips and simultaneously began laughing and drinking. Wine spilled down your chin and neck. I caught the flow with my fingers just as it was disappearing under your pure white blouse.

"I hope you're impressed with how smart I am."

Actually I was. We sipped more wine and eventually kissed. Your hand settled on my thigh and we continued kissing, tasting the wine on each other's tongues. My hand moved up the curve of your body and rested beside your breast.

Before long fingers were working buttons, snaps, belts, and zippers. Sitting, our legs intertwined, you drank from your glass as I kissed your breasts. I took my glass and drank and you reclined to the floor, stretching your legs to each side of me, lying naked on Yeats and Aedh, making an offering of imagination and flesh to all that you loved.

I sat looking at you and the half exposed text. I filled my mouth with wine, leaned forward, lay on top of you and Yeats, and made an offering of wine. You received it willingly and drank. As wine ran down the side of your face and neck, and onto Yeats, you suddenly spoke.


You pushed me onto the floor and, without self-consciousness, stood up, confident, naked and beautiful, closed the Yeats, and ran to a bookshelf in the hallway between the living room and bedroom. You returned with T.S. Eliot. You sat down again, crossed your legs and gently eased my head into your lap.

"I want to read you some of the best. East Coker. I love this. It begins with the words 'In the beginning is my end.' But this is what I want you to hear.

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.[1]

You took my hand and walked me to your bedroom. As we entered the room, you turned slightly toward me, with a sly smile, and spoke quietly.

"I have a great bed."

I went to lie down on that great bed, and you stopped me.


You hurried to the closet, opened the door, reached up, standing on your toes, stretching your whole beautiful body, and pulled down a quilt. Before you could turn, I came up behind you, put my arms around you and kissed your back. You turned.

"This is my grandmother's quilt. She made it with her own hands and gave it to me."

Those were your exact words. I helped you spread the quilt on the bed. It was made of brightly coloured cloth, with moments of gold and silver. You smoothed its surface with your hands and then lay down. It was indeed a beautiful quilt.

I lay down besides you, on my side, and began running my hand over your body. I traced my fingers from your forehead down the bridge of your nose, pausing on your lips. You licked my fingers with your tongue and I moistened your lips with your own saliva. I moved over your chin, down your neck into the shallow between your collar bones. I opened my fingers and with my whole hand caressed your breasts. With fingers once again, down your stomach, flat and firm, into your belly button, through your pubic hair. You were wet and I felt with tenderness all of you: labia and clitoris, vagina and anus. As I did this, you began to fondle your left breast and nipple, eyes closed, without a word. In a short while I knew your body better than I had ever known any woman's before.

We lay upon the patchwork quilt spread beneath us, treading and dancing on each other's dreams. I moved on top of you and you put your hands on my bottom. As I entered you, we both made the inarticulate sounds of flesh. I could feel you pushing your pelvis hard against mine as I held the side of your breast.

"Yes. I love that. Your hand there. I love that. That's perfect. I love that." 

As you climaxed, you held me tight with both arms, lifting yourself off the bed, then fell back onto your grandmother's quilt. When I looked into your eyes, tears were running down the side of your face onto the quilt. I remembered in San Salvador you had said that an orgasm could bring tears, but I did not have the courage to ask if this time they belonged to me.

I do not know if you read the concern on my face, but you smiled and then laughed gently. I too laughed and kissed your cheek.

"I love laughing with you."

You were not laughing when you said these words, left elbow on the table, the clam chowder half consumed. With the texture of poetry permeating your flesh and enlightening my spirit, I looked at you. I could see the ever present curve of your body. Your shining, dark, and thick hair, almost reaching your shoulders, fell away from your tilted head exposing your naked ear. Bangs fell loosely across your forehead, sweeping over your left eyebrow. I could see the individual hairs of your eyebrows as I leaned still closer to your face. Your eyes were round and deep, set off and highlighted by the liner you had put on that morning after your shower, leaning over the bathroom sink to get as close as possible to the mirror. Your pupils were small as the light came in the restaurant's many windows, greens and browns etching outward toward pure white. Your eyelashes, not particularly long, were full. Your face seemed to defy gravity, your flesh light and floating in air. Your cheeks round, nose straight, chin strong. Your lips were slightly parted as you looked at me, delicate horizontal lines inviting touch. Though almost impossible to discern, I searched out the slight rise where your textured reddish lips became smooth white skin. Laughter, love, life. In your face.

"I love laughing with you."

Your lips released these words, the very same lips that had given flesh to my forgotten park utterance. Breaking bread with your teeth, crumbs remained on your lips and I reached over the table and with my finger brushed them away.

"Do you remember when we visited the church housing project in San Salvador?"

I did. The churches in the city were helping fund and organize the building of homes for some of those left homeless after the earthquake. These homes were made of wood frames covered by black plastic. No individual or family built their own home, but instead built the next home in the row for their neighbour. When we arrived on a blisteringly hot day, there were two rows of black plastic houses facing each other, a small "shop" near the entrance.

"Do you remember that woman bathing her baby boy in that large pot? She picked him up dripping wet and tried to wrap a towel around him but he grabbed her shirt with one hand and reached for her breast with the other. She saw us watching and broke into such full-hearted laughter. God, she was beautiful. Do you remember?"

Yes, I did remember. She was very beautiful, through and through. For the life of us, we couldn't see what she had to laugh about, though her joy invited joy. Our naiveté still weighed on us and we were too weary and frightened by all we had seen to laugh. It was not yet time for us to laugh. We hadn't yet realized that people laughed simply because they were alive, or because their lives had some meaning, or because they loved, as she did her boy.

"We didn't laugh with her and I've always regretted that. Remember across the way standing on her own was a another woman leaning on that shaken building. Looked like they were both ready to fall down."

She had stood there staring at us across the littered ground. She leaned against the building, hip jutting out, arms folded low across her stomach, her left foot crossed over her right. Her face was dull, without laughter, love, or life.

"She seemed beyond sorrow to me. Joyless. I cannot imagine laughter coming from her. She quelled any laughter I might have shared with that mother and her child. Why did so many people have joy and hope where there was no joy and hope?"

Gravity was pulling her down. Her forehead, eyebrows, eyes, cheeks, lips, chin, all turned downward. Her straight thin black hair pulled straight back from her face and down her rounded back. As we left that wood and plastic community our lives were convicted by laughter and the absence of laughter, by echoes of ecstasy and agony.

You sat back in your chair, beer in hand.

"Do you remember when we first really laughed together? I wonder if that is when I first fell in love with you. Or when I first realized I had already fallen in love with you."

It was in the Managua airport. As our passports were checked, the agent spoke to us.

"Enjoy Nicaragua. Speak to anyone you like. All we ask is that when you go home you tell the truth. Welcome."

The change in atmosphere was instantly recognizable. From the moment we stepped off the plane and walked the short distance across the tarmac and entered the airport building we knew there was no fear in the air. The moment the door closed behind us, we started joking and laughing together, as if on some invisible cue. We laughed all the way to the park where I spoke to you and you responded with a kiss.

It is still an open question: Was it agony or ecstasy that made our love?

When we landed in San Salvador we had landed in a personal and political hothouse. It was self-contained and, by our standards and experiences, extremely intense. Fear was not a topic that motivated intellectual discourse. It was something felt simply because the threats were real. Angst was not a word to be used among friends with just the correct tone to exaggerate melancholy, but a physical reality that dissolved our guts, cut into our hearts, and numbed our minds. It was all so vivid, we had no time to hesitate or dither. We had to jump in with our whole being, step out of the hotel and feel it all, or become physically and spiritually paralysed. Everything seemed artificially intensified and accelerated.

The prison in San Salvador was a microcosm of what we were experiencing. When we visited the prison, there were 2400 prisoners, 1200 of whom were political. Amazingly, the political prisoners told us that in prison they were free, that they had a better life inside the walls then outside in the streets. Inside they could organize, offering each other political awareness training, religious instruction and worship, art lessons, craft shops, and medical care. Our thoughts instantly went to the barrio on the edge of the ravine next to the railroad tracks where we had sipped orange concentrate. While there, we were told how a woman and her three children had found her husband's mutilated body on the garbage dump. His crime? Organizing the running of a hosepipe from a water source to the barrio shacks. Poor people organizing their lives was the last thing the military, government, and wealthy wanted. It was what they feared most. Organizing was both an expression of freedom and a means to freedom. If you wanted to organize, it was best to be in prison. If you wanted water, it was best to walk three miles there and three miles back with bucket in hand.

But my point is this. We had landed in an upside down, inside out, closed up tight hothouse. We had landed in a world where walking down the street was imprisonment and imprisonment was freedom. We had landed in a world where happiness, fulfilment and peace came inside out, in unexpected ways, as challenges to and indictments of the way it was. We had landed in a world that demanded speaking the truth or not speaking at all, feeling intensely or not feeling at all, standing together or not standing at all. We made love between us in part to remind ourselves that love was real, had flesh, and in the hothouse it happened more quickly than we noticed.

No doubt there was a time when we should have walked away from each other, as all good people said we should have, and told us they would have. So when was that moment? At the office in San Francisco when I said "We must be friends"? While sitting at the empty pool in the Alameda Hotel when you said "Orgasms bring tears to my eyes"? When walking away from the offices for the Committee of Women of the Disappeared when we both had lost our voices? Standing in the park in Managua when I said God knows what? Under your grandmother's quilt as you dared the words "I want to taste you in my mouth"? On your grandmother's quilt when you swooned "Yes. I love that. Your hand there. I love that. That's perfect. I love that"? Or leaning in the door frame saying "You know how to whistle, don't you. Just put your lips together and blow"?

Well, very few people actually do walk away, though they voice amazement and regret with themselves afterwards. We certainly didn't, and I don't know when we missed our moment. But by the time we were having lunch on the Santa Cruz pier and you said "I love to laugh with you," that moment had passed.

This is not the world we would have hoped for, and it is a dangerous thing to imagine possibilities. It is more dangerous still to speak those possibilities. Not to de-liberate them, but to liberate them through word into being. Imagination, Utterance, Appropriation. Or, Thought, Word, Flesh. As in all good trinities, the three are inseparable. Once the spark ignites the process, the relationship, they tread and dance around each other in agony and ecstasy. I suspect it is pure poetry. We moved from Yeats, to Eliot, to Dorfman, from words to flesh, from Bogart and Bacall to your grandmother's quilt. Words are incarnated in flesh. Or, words incarnate flesh. Whatever. I don't know. But this I do know: if that woman bathing her boy has had to visit the city dump to find her son, she will not be laughing. Torture and Death kill laughter. And I know too: if the hothouse of El Salvador accelerated the flowering of imagination and utterance, it was the laughter of Nicaragua that sparked our dance.

What kind of world is it?

I know you know all this. You walked through life wrapped in your grandmother's quilt. Perhaps there is a little bit of Bacall in you after all, albeit a postmodern representation of Bacall. But I fear there is no Bogart in me. I could never expect from a woman what he did. I am not good at running guns and transporting resistance fighters. I'm frightened when stopped by soldiers in the middle of the night. I'm not even sure I could be a father. I had to love you under the circumstances. And our El Salvador was not their Martinique.

We should not have made love between us, but the world was upside down and inside out. What should have happened, did not. What should not have happened, did. We spoke of the hope for justice and the blossoming of love in the same breath. Our hands held in agony and our bodies embraced in ecstasy were the same flesh. But if making a love between us was indeed our destiny, as you sometimes suggested, then what should have taken months or even years, took weeks.

On the day, I did not understand why you declared our love would become speechless. There had been an earthquake and your house, along with all of Santa Cruz, had been badly shaken. The fireplace was cracked and books had fallen from the shelves. I was kneeling down picking them up, putting them back in their places. You were standing behind me looking at the cracked stone.

"I can no longer speak of our love."

Still kneeling, I turned my head toward you.

"What? What did you say?"

"You can no longer speak of our love. But please kiss me one more time."

Once I had spoken and you had kissed me. Now you would remain silent and I would kiss you.

I agreed, of course. What else could I do? But you never told me to go away. You just left me speechless. You never said "Stop loving me," but just "Stop speaking of our love." You left me with my soul pieced and stitched to yours. You left me without asking me to leave. You just left me there with all that love.

"But please kiss me one more time."

I did, of course. And would do it again if only you would ask. You never said good-bye. Just "kiss me one more time."

It was the last time I ever kissed you. The last time we ever touched. Why didn't you tell me you were going back? Why didn't you ask if I would go with you? I have concluded, after years of thinking about it, that you didn't want to risk my talking you out of it. And you knew I wouldn't go. Given that our words were so powerful, you silenced them, even at the risk of creating a poverty of souls. You silenced them and once they were silent, our flesh became estranged. Our last kiss, with lips that could no longer speak, was an act of failing memory. It was disingenuous.

You went into the kitchen to make coffee and I stood by the fireplace desperately trying to remember what I had said to you in the park. Since I could not, and could not speak of our love, I could think of nothing at all to say. You looked at me from the kitchen, leaning against the counter with your arms crossed below your breasts. Your eyes spoke one last time of love, and I left. I have never been back to Santa Cruz.

In the beginning of us was our end.

You went back to Nicaragua and I burned your letters, every word you had ever written me. Not having a fireplace, I burned them in the kitchen sink and almost set fire to the curtains. The thought now makes me smile, but then I was beside myself as I watched your words vaporize into nothingness.

I have often imagined you in Esteli working for the church and with the people there. I remember we first entered Esteli together. Buildings carrying the scars of war, soldiers playing volleyball in the town square in front of the church. I can see you leaving for the countryside to pick coffee beans at harvest time. It was assumed that Reagan's Contras would not attack coffee pickers if they included Americans. Given that the harvest was vital for Nicaragua's economy, the risk seemed worth it to many. We underestimated Mr. Reagan and his friends. But we always knew the Contras targeted those who worked with and for the people: medical personnel, priests, university professors, organizers. And of course, coffee bean harvesters.

What kind of world is it?

I was in Jerusalem working on a piece with the working title "Hope and Hatred." Same old story, and a bit of a cliché. I was staying at the Capitolina in East Jerusalem. On the third night of my visit, the phone rang about midnight. A mutual friend of ours had called to tell me you were dead. He promised to fax me the details when he got them.

Just inside the Damascus Gate there was a small open café. It was higher than the street and thus offered a good view. I would sit at the corner table drinking Taybeh beer looking over the people going about their living. It was there that I read the fax describing your death.

They abducted you from the fields, keeping you hidden in a shack for some days. Finally, when they had done enough, they tied you to a tree near a stream. They gagged you to silence your words, raped you to defile your flesh, and shot you through the heart to kill your being.

Since your death, much has changed and has not changed. Both El Salvador and Nicaragua are now forgotten news. An upside down kind of peace has been forced in El Salvador. The United States finally wore down the Nicaraguan people and the right wing took over in democratic elections. In both countries the people are still poor. Old news. Not worthy of mention. They are still singing the hymn you liked:

Sad is the sound of rain on cardboard. Sad is the people living in cardboard houses.

They are singing that hymn all over the world now.

As for you? You have become poetry, but not without a continual struggle. First, I imagine your death over and over again. I can see them hunting out your poetry to kill it. Unfortunately, the poetry of being cannot be hidden in flesh, it is the flesh. They can with drugs force speech, exhaling your words into the air. They can with poison induce vomiting and diarrhoea, spilling your sentences onto the earth. They can with technology probe every orifice, extracting your text into the world.

Then, I remember that it is you they killed, not me. Nor did they, nor can they, kill you inside me. Then I re-member you each and every day. I read you aloud to myself and it is ecstasy. The only agony left is the absence of flesh. I had never expected you to live forever, but I had assumed you would live as long as I needed you, and long enough for us to become reconciled.

Before your death, though you were gone from me in word and flesh, I knew you were still out there. I learned to live with the discordance by assuming we would one day realize harmony. Whether in Istanbul or Bangkok or Shanghai or San Francisco or wherever I was, you were both in my imagination and in the physical world. I could, if I chose, go to you. I would buy you gifts assuming that someday, if I wanted, I could take them to you. I have them still. There was no way to cut you lose without my whole being coming unravelled.

Now after your death, though I cannot go to you, I keep sensing you are going to appear to me. I will be walking down the street and I know you are about to appear from a doorway, wave from a window, emerge from an alleyway. Sometimes I actually stop and wait for you. My surprise is not that you do appear, but that you do not.

This evening while waiting outside a restaurant door, I thought again about my forgotten utterance, and I knew what I always know. I know that if I can remember the words I spoke in the Managua park, you will appear. I know that words are realized in flesh. I know that speaking is creating. I know that when I remember those three words you will come to me. I know that when I speak them aloud you will be again, in spirit and flesh. I know it with my being.

I admit I still have not remembered the words I spoke. And I admit the years have passed. It is late now, and as I write, I look down at my hands and see skin stretched over knuckles and the hint of age. In time, I will no longer recognize these hands. They will belong to an old man. Still, one day, I will remember our park night words that invoked lips of flesh to meet.

You will pull me by the hand from the sofa to the floor in front of the fireplace and take Yeats from the shelf. After opening the book to He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, you will speak.


You will go to the kitchen for a bottle of red wine, two glasses, and a loaf of homemade bread on a wood cutting board. I will pour the wine as you read. We will break bread. As you finish reading you will eat bread and drink more wine.

"I love that poem. It was first called 'Aedh tells of the Rose in his Heart.' In Irish Aedh is a fire burning by itself. Aedh is the 'myrrh and frankincense that the imagination offers continually before all that it loves.' And I quote."

You will smile, lift the glass to your lips, laughing. Wine will spill down your chin and neck. I will catch the drops with the bread held in my fingers just as they are disappearing under your pure white blouse. You will take my hand, eat the bread and lick my wet fingers.

"I hope you're impressed with how smart I am."

We will drink our wine and kiss. You will move your hand to my thigh, and as we continue kissing, tasting the wine in each other's mouths, my hand will move along the curve of your body and stop near your breast.

Our fingers will attack buttons, snaps, belts, and zippers as we sit, legs intertwined. As you drink wine I will kiss your brown nipples. I will take my glass as you lie back on the floor stretching your legs around me. Your naked back will cover Yeats and Aedh and your love for me will offer itself in flesh and imagination.

I will look at your legs that hold me, your inner thighs and genitals, hair, stomach, breasts, face, and the half covered book. I will fill my mouth with wine, cover you with my body, and pour my wine into your mouth. You will drink and wine will run down the side of your face onto Yeats.


Naked and beautiful you will close the Yeats and run to the hallway to come back with T.S. Eliot. When you sit down again and cross your legs, I will rest my head in your lap and breathe in the scent of you.

"I want to read you some of the best. I love this. It begins with the words, 'In the beginning is my end.' But this is what I want you to hear."

For some time we will sit before the fire and stillness will embrace us. For the first time we will understand what hope is and will wait for the poverty of our souls to be enriched. We will hold hands and nothing more for the longest time, waiting for our love to touch our imagination. We will feed each other strawberries, putting aside myrrh.

When our stillness becomes a dance, you will take my hand and laughing we will go to the bedroom. As we entered the room, you will turn slightly toward me, with a sly smile.

"I have a great bed."

Before I can lie down you will speak.


Going to the closet, you will open the door, stretch your whole beautiful body, and pull down a quilt. Before you turn, I will put my arms around you, working them below the quilt so I can hold your breasts in my hands. I will kiss your back and taste your flesh.

"This is my grandmother's quilt. She made it with her own hands and gave it to me."

We will spread the quilt on the bed, smoothe it with our hands, and you will lie down. As you roll onto your side looking at me, I will speak.


I will return to the fireplace for Yeats. Back in the bedroom, I will sit between your open legs and place the open book on your flat stomach.

"Listen to this.

After Long Silence

Speech after long silence; it is right,
All other lovers being estranged or dead,
Unfriendly lamplight hid under its shade,
The curtains drawn upon unfriendly night,
That we descant and yet again descant
Upon the supreme theme of Art and Song:
Bodily decrepitude is wisdom; young
We loved each other and were ignorant."


I will close the book, place it on a patch of wild strawberries near the corner of the bed. You will pull me toward you, roll me onto my back and rest your head on my stomach so that my pubic hair is disturbed by your breathing. We will discuss at length the making of love in our world. Our discourse will explore how love can be abducted, become missing, and recognized in screams. We will rejoice that love can be found in poverty, anguish, and death. We will wonder how the words, "I love you," can cause so much discomfort. How the words, "The people are poor," can cause so much anger. How the words, "Where are our loved ones?" can cause so much silence. We will ponder our wisdom now that our skin stretches and our hair greys. After so long from the hothouse which intensified and accelerated our lovemaking, threatened our naiveté, and exposed our ignorance, we will rejoice in our speaking once again together.

I will take your hair in my hand and pull your head toward me until you lie half on me and half on your grandmother's quilt. With your hand you will hold my penis and testicles. My hand will be on your bottom. Your forehead will rest against my lips and your lips against my neck. Then we will begin to compose in words yet again the making of love between us.

Your mouth will kiss my neck, stomach and penis, as your hand caresses my anus. My enthusiasm will make you laugh and you will kiss my lips. I will run my hand over your body, tracing your curves to the bottoms of your feet. As I drink your moisture you will place my hands on your breasts. And after considerable descant, despite our decrepitude, I will lightly slide over your body and enter you.

You will with both hands clutch your grandmother's quilt as we tread upon, dance around, and perform in each other's dreams. We will both make inarticulate sounds of love. My hand will hold the side of your breast.

"Yes. I love that. Your hand there. I love that. That's perfect. I love that." 

As we climax, you will pull the quilt around and over us as you hold me tight in your arms. My hands will hold your head, my fingers buried in your hair.

When I look into your eyes I will see they are filling with tears. The tears will run down the sides of your face, some into your ears, some into your hair, and some into your grandmother's quilt. I will remember that in San Salvador you said you hoped that orgasm would bring tears to your eyes. I will be so moved I will speak.

"Do those tears belong to me?"

You will open your eyes and look at me with surprise. Your wet lips will move, making dreams flesh.

"They belong to you, and the embroidered heavens, the being poor, the fragility of dreams, the myrrh and frankincense, the still souls, the whisper of waters, the wild thyme, the sweet strawberry, the laughing garden, the ever present agony, the ever illusive ecstasy, the missing children, the parent's joy, and the inside out upside down hothouse of a world. And love."

Your conjuring words will create tears in my eyes and my tears will fall onto your lips and into your eyes, and they will join your tears flowing into your grandmother's quilt. And you will speak one last time.

"I love laughing with you."


Copyright © 1987 Dale Rominger


[1] Eliot, T.S. Collected Poems 1909-1962. London: Faber and Faber, 1963, pp. 200-201.