Martin Willitts Jr
“Stay, stay with me, stay” — words to a song, but I never heard the title
She watches the man on the life support.
She knows he does not want to live like this.
That urge to go is in his eyes,
but she is greedy for more of him.
She watches his shallowness, the hard pumping,
a flicker of suffering, days they never talked
and should have. She counts beeps
like jump rope. She measures his unsteadiness.
He wants to go and does not want to go.
Someone must decide. It cannot go on like this.
Or can it? Can they have more? She bites her lip.
She draws ancient blood. His is draining.
Soon there will be nothing in his veins. Dust
maybe; certainly not an engine firing all cylinders.
She fingers the life support cord. It reminds her
of umbilical cords. It feels like musical chords
of Brahms’ Lullaby. It whispers: take me.
She remembers their first kiss. She wanted it forever.
He had to go. She wanted him to stay.
He wanted to obey curfew. She wanted to be ravaged.
He noticed his watch too many times
instead of having a good time.
She wanted to break his watch.
The police tapping on the steamed-up side window
did not want them to stay. They had a couple of minutes
to get dressed. Or else. Or else was never clear
when they were both worked-up like that.
She wanted the moment to stay. He had started the car,
warming the engine, while hers cooled off.
Moments like this never last. They are seldom repeated
in marriage with the same intensity.
The moment never stays.
His unit was leaving soon. He would be going to the front.
Don’t forget to change your socks, she made him promise,
feeling foolish afterwards this had been the best she could do.
He looked more grown up in his uniform. She looked again.
Now he looked small in it; a boy playing at grown-up.
He looked like he was being fitted for a coffin.
Duck, she whispered, caressing his body at attention,
come back to me; I’ll keep my fire burning.
He had a hard time walking straight afterwards;
it took mid-Atlantic to settle down to the task at hand.
A part of him was in her embrace, still planting seeds.
A part of him stayed. The best part of him.
They went to work, rushing here and there,
flights never meeting, coffee rushes, passing kisses,
steamroller lives. Where was the time?
Time to stay, to lock into each other’s need
like thermal heat-seeking missiles.
Somehow they managed some time to make babies,
and it felt rushing, like bread rising.
It was over soon as it started, timers going off.
They promised to stay together. They avoided divorce
like it was a silver bullet. They survived hip replacements.
They knew each other’s wrinkles. They knew
the staying never lasts forever.
We sent messages into deep space
hoping for a connection and response
while here I am sitting next to the same women I married
forty years ago and we have not said a word in days.
Suddenly I wanted to kiss her with the passion of a lake draining.
I wanted to tell her that our hands have grown old together
and we were knitted tight as sunlight traveling long distances,
holy as the kiss I intended to duplicate.
However, I was in this loss, this smallness of stars,
tiny points of knitting needles, and I could not speak.
I was in a rocking chair and the silence swayed with me
like a companion I knew only too well.
Our life was winding the circumference of the earth.
There are messages no one understands. Like why loss overwhelms.
I had to tell her how important she is, like broadcasts in my heart,
before it is too late, and she puts her needles and ball of yarn in a basket.
She headed to bed in silence, quiet as an undisturbed lake.
I spooned behind her, holding her heartbeat like an umbilical cord of love.
If we died, linked like this, and someone found us,
would they naturally conclude sometimes love is unspoken?