the gasping expectation and the drag of skin on skin

Up-welling of forces, serums and fevers,
tracking conduits of emotion,
following the longing of waist, elbows and knees
to crease to and fro, to be wind and wild
as any petal of in-growing rosebud in storm.
Until, and not until, each still quivering tendon
flops its last and pales;
until, and not until, something of a trance or sleep
blankets the bed; until, and not until, a dozen instances
lift and collapse in a headless consciousness
of release, and the gorged blood descends
by an intermittent elevator of stems,
will the lovers let go of themselves or each other.

Can they stand to get up now? So far have they slid
from the inflated lungs of love,
from the gasping expectation and the drag
of skin on skin as they sank after having held up
their coming, they who moved as one
raw from the separate rates of their falling,
such a distance have they gone, up and down then,
that each may recall the middle of the story
only by its frame. After the event,
the photo of the lover expels no scent, no invitation
sufficient to satisfy. It is truly over until,
and only until, some hidden residue of passion
sways into being, wanting to die.

[Marvin Bell {1937- }, 'Short Version of Ecstasy', from Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000]

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