What Forever Means

By Maria Nazos

For some lovers, it’s two parallel lines inked smoothly through time
by God’s hand, until he can’t keep his wrist steady,

or his pen dries up, so one of you runs out of color. One partner tries to pencil
the other back to life,

reads a story from her youth while she lies half-awake, as
a somber hospice hovers.

For others forever is two lives chiming together then ending, just days apart,
softly as a bell with a broken tongue—

Your once dashing father’s end came with him shrinking into your couch beside
your mother, unable to speak aside

from a blurred whisper, “Alice, take me home. I want to die at home.” There’s
a woman whose husband

tenderly pulls back her robe like a curtain opened to caress her twin mastectomy

So, what does “forever” mean to us? Could it mean you at seventy and I at fifty
taking your blood

pressure, counting your pills? Or myself still nubile (never having been good)
leaving you for a younger man

whose hands are a poem. Forever could be you now: past middle age yet handsome
enough to make women gape,

leaving me for the blonde postmistress and her convertible and I (never good as
we’ve established) driving you to her.

But could forever be us in twenty years, trundling our cart down the supermarket’s
bright aisles, still bonding over our dislike

for designer croutons, still arguing over generic versus organic eggs? At night
still floating in bed, a tangle of limbs and torsos?

Me still asking you for permission I don’t need to cry into the confessional
screen of your chest,

while the sheets sail us into the smooth waves of sleep. Holding my waist like a
mast, you struggle

against the day’s siren song that sings so loud it drowns out the question so I
can’t ask you about forever, but instead

just allow it to linger in our air.

Maria Nazos has received fellowships from the University of Nebraska, Vermont Studio Center and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. The author of A Hymn That Meanders (2011 Wising Up Press), her poems are published or forthcoming in Raleigh Review, The Boxcar Poetry Review, Poet Lore, The New York Quarterly, The Sycamore Review, and elsewhere. She is currently a Chancellor’s fellow at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s English PhD program.

Originally appeared in NOR 14.

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