A Poem (and a Painting)

Two Women at a Window. Bartolome Esteban Murillo. c. 1670. Oil on Canvas
Two Women at a Window. Bartolome Esteban Murillo. c. 1670. Oil on Canvas. National Gallery of Art

Domestic Sensibility

If love is the language of poets
Rumi, Kabir, Sappho
then to believe in the body is
to hold an instrument and know
that it wants to be played.

And that you own nothing.

The girl you are tempted to follow
into the desert
the quietude of night
and all its suffering
the things that lessen that suffering
and give it name.

The gifts she brought
the books and bread and
her body still speaking French and somehow
less American.

It was to lay with her that you wanted
to postpone the nuisance of unpacking
for someone else to take care of
the clocks and the rehanging of the moon.

To be just two women after all the work
of being women and transplanted;
for her to sleep beside you
while you read with the bedside light on.

Performing the familiar ritual of turning pages
as if death could be erased this way
as if blood could be spared.

To cling to breath in the temporary absence
of speech, the open wound of her body so near
you mistake it for your own.

—Sherisse Alvarez

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