I declared, and immediately rejected this. For instance:
a man I loved once liked to hurt women and would tell me
what he did to his lovers. The sight of a woman’s slight hips
as she was knocked over a television might give delight. Or the way
bones sounded in skin that bumped or scraped against a wall.
He used to claim he could hear things like this, not
the scratch of a woman’s back on a wall, but actual
bone rubbing muscle, skin, joint, the sound
as if sticks rattled in cloth. It frightened him, he said, he found himself
pushing other women to prove he couldn’t really hear the sound.
And I loved him. I loved forgiving him. I must admit this
though he never laid a hand on me,
I knew enough about this kind of loss.
There were more significant things
to demand from the world. Such as how
a word could call up more than violence, an idea, person, become
reality with only the finest limitations
of meaning. Such as monster, perhaps,
or grave, or delicious. I could say, for instance, that this man
was a delicious monster with his strap-colored hair and soft mouth
though where does that place me
in the universe of word? Perhaps you could say I
was the monster, searching not for where rivers ran but to the source
of rivers, the frozen nugget of an idea of river: so cold
it almost burns the rock around it. I was the one willing to sacrifice
so many others of my kind; I could listen for hours
to his stories of women whose bones itched within them
and I all I could think was hand, eye, mouth as if to say the words
was to take his fingers in my mouth, to suck
the warm pink nails between my teeth, or lick the egg taste
from his eye with my tongue. These were more real to me
than the fact he would cry out on the phone or in my bedroom
where we would talk. He would cry and all I could think was
More, let my thighs be another casing for you
if this is the kind of grave you want. I almost thought grace. I almost
gave in once, but, and this is the truth, he was afraid of me. I
was the coldness of rivers, he said, I was the source
and when he looked down at me lying on the sheets rumpled
like ruined skin he called me his destroyer.
Perhaps the real question in the world is not
what to love, but how to forgive.
What does it take for the monstrous
to be delightful in the eye of God? As if beauty itself
wasn’t also obscene — a hand really fleshed claw, a peony
a flowering of blood. Or perhaps a word is really all it signifies, all
we can trust in fact; to name a thing
is to make it so. When I called this man a man, you must believe
he became one for me. The source of the river,
not its oceangrasp. What happened to the man I loved
is that eventually he choked a woman almost to death.
We weren’t speaking then. Even I, it seems, have my limits.
But I can imagine how he would have told me he could hear her spine
crying out to him, an accusation of the flesh. What more is there
but to love like this and be loved? he asked me once.
You are my source of delight,
an eternal search for grace, I answered. I almost said the grave.