The Morning After Meeting

I lie beneath the covers in this room
Your parents’ house-six bedroom four baths.
Turn away from the blank ceiling above
to your tattooed back starring at me.
Black Latin lettering imbedded in your skin-
the meaning briefly explained days ago.

My fingers gently trace the alien phrase
silently hoping you will wake and turn to me,
exhale your warm morning greeting-
Newport breath mixed with sleep’s stale remnants-
covering your mouth as you yawn,
reluctant to bring your lips to mine-
as if sleep forgot to burden me,
forgot to smear my makeup on your pillowcase,
forgot to run silent fingers through my hair,
and forgot to plant the seeds of insecurity in my mind,
holes dug by hands that pulled me close last night,
fertilized by drunken secrets shared in post-coital darkness.

Six rooms with beds-I familiar with one.
Familiar with the distance to the floor below,
the dark walnut headboard and four poster columns,
the pillow as it yields to heedless heads,
the rusty groan of shifting springs under restless bodies.
Beyond the bed-I do not know.
Though I have knocked on doors and walked the halls,
bleed from a loose nail on basement stairs,
felt linoleum through stockinged feet,
trailed fingertips on yellowed wallpaper,
dug nails in flat faded pink carpet.
But I think of what I do not know-
which floorboards creak under naked feet,
the splinters that grow on the deck under summer sun,
the wool and cotton labyrinths in oriental rugs,
the artillery of rain on the hollow attic roof,
or which window was meant for winter mornings
after snow has fallen and gathered all night
in the shadow of this Colonial House
to cover the yard-sheets laid out overnight,
that have yet to host the fumblings of strangers-
who wake and discover their confident eloquence
replaced with the sober residue of morning.

Your body turns over-
eyes closed, lips parted, nose exhaling.
But I would not call us strangers-
lying here, our clothing asleep on the floor below.
Though I do not know your middle name,
or when you read your first chapter book,
or if you ever scribbled philosophy on a bathroom wall.
And I don’t know what you think about-
when you hear those first notes of Bach’s Cello Suite,
or see a small wooden cross on the side of a highway,
or smell your father’s aftershave in a crowded party.

But I do know how you take your coffee,
how many beers it takes to get you drunk,
where the scar on your right shoulder came from,
how your face looks caged in streaks of sunlight.
And I know that you are jaded yet you smile so well,
mouth framed by your honey colored beard.

I don’t know what the Latin on your back translates to,
or why a staunch Atheist has a cross tattooed on his back,
but it does not alter the path my finger takes as it traces the outline.

I wonder if you have six bedrooms and four baths,
doors closed to strangers who wander the halls in the morning,
even though they want only to look at the backyard-
the patio and chairs covered in absolute white.
Would you open the screen door to them?
Let them fumble and fall into familiarity,
to discover what lies underneath the blanket-
the meaning behind your inked inscription,
or why you were shot in the shoulder to begin with,
why you say you want to take things slow
as you ask me to rest my head on your chest,
and pull me closer when my uncertainty is visible.

Maybe warmer weather will melt the backyard,
the yard once concealed will reveal itself and I-
standing at the window above the kitchen sink-
will see all about your trip to Italy and the tattoo that followed.

When you begin to stir,
I turn on my side, my back to you now,
and stare at the table next to my head,
examining each item as I wait-
a glass of water nearly diminished,
a separate glass for crushed cigarette stumps,
heavy beer cans interrupted by spontaneity.
Your hand reaches my back-
and though there is no tattooed path for you to trace,
your fingers pull the covers from my side,
your hand reaches around and pulls me backwards-
the blankets falling from us-spilling on the floor below.