you caressed me in a restaurant by poking me with a fork

Romance is a world, tiny and curved, reflected in a spoon. Perilous
as a clean sheet of paper. Why begin? Why sully and crumple a
perfectly good surface? Lots of reasons. Sensuality, need for relief,
curiosity. Or it's your mission. You could blame the mating in-
stinct: a squat little god carved from shit-colored wood. NO NO
NO. It's not dirty. The plight of desire, a longing to consort, to
dally, bend over, lose yourself; be rubbed till you're shiny as a new
minted utensil. A monogrammed butter knife, modern pattern or
heirloom. It's a time of plagues and lapses, rips in the ozone layer's
bridal veil. One must take comfort in whatever lap one can. He
wanted her to bite him, lightly. She wanted to drink a quart of
water and get to bed early. Now that's what I call an exciting date.
In the voodoo religion, believers can marry their gods. Some nuns
wed Jesus, but they have to cut off all their hair first. He's afraid
he'll tangle in it, trip and fall. Be laid low. Get lost. Your face,
lovely and rough as a gravestone. I kiss it. I do.

In a more pragmatic age many brides' veils later served as their
burying shrouds. After they'd paid their dues to mother nature,
they commanded last respects. Wreaths, incense and satin in crypts.
In India marriage of children is common. An army of those who
died young march through your studio this afternoon to rebuke
you for closing your eyes to the fullness of the world. But when
they get close enough to read what's written on your forehead,
they realize you only did what was necessary. Then they hurriedly
skip outside to bless your car, your mangy lawn, and the silver floss
tree which bows down in your front yard.

His waiting room is full of pious heathens and the pastor calls them
into his office for counseling, two by two. Once you caressed me
in a restaurant by poking me with a fork. In those days, any embrace
was a strain. In the picture in this encyclopedia, the oriental bride's
headdress looks like a paper boat. The caption says "Marriage in
Japan is a formal, solemn ceremony." O bride fed and bedded down
on a sea of dexatrim, tea, rice, and quinine, can you guide me? Is
the current swift? Is there a bridge? What does this old fraction add
up to: you over me? Mr. Numerator on top of Miss Denominator?
The two of us divided by a line from a psalm, a differing line of
thinking, the thin bloodless line of your lips pressed together. At
the end of the service guests often toss rice or old shoes. You had
a close shave, handsome. Almost knocked unconscious by a flying
army boot, while your friends continued to converse nonchalantly
under a canopy of mosquito netting. You never recognized me,
darling, but I knew you right away. I know my fate when I see it.
But it's bad luck to lay eyes on each other before the appropriate
moment. So look away. Even from this distance, and the chasm
is widening, the room grows huge, I kiss your old and new wounds.
I kiss you. I do.

[Amy Gerstler {1956- }, 'Marriage', from Best American Poetry 1988 {originally published in New American Writing}]


  1. This is weapons-grade sad right here. Damn.

    1. "I know my fate when I see it."