By Mark Cox

Featured Art: Untitled by Vija Clemins

In your prime, shape presents itself first,
the angle and curve of one thing,
the size of something else,
or the way her hair flows volcanically

along each subtle slope and swell.
It is crazed, intense, super-heated,
even the soles of your boots feel sticky,

because she’s entered you, you know this,
she charts the very map of your blood,
and that eyelid twitch you have going,
they’ll claim is stress and dehydration,

but it’s her, pal, all her, she floods places
you’ve never named in yourself,
she proffers the pulse, the duende, the élan,
that jackhammer of lust
outside the Fiesta Ware outlet. . . .

But one day, it just happens,
a man’s eyes cloud and change,
you don’t feel with the same ardor
the way she moves, her confident posture,

no, suddenly it is color you notice,
the grays, the yellows, the bruised surfaces
tinged with a silver-green, almost a tarnish,
as if her skin were a metal,

and not such a precious one, either,
more like pewter or the common alloys
of soot-smudged medieval artisans,
something to be re-shaped, hammered thin,
become useful and used.

Quite all of a sudden,
your words are cast
with the hues of finality,
of last-ness and leave-taking:

What once called for passionate pyrotechnics,
requires, now, quietude and simplicity;
the clever words, the transatlantic words,
you have waved bon voyage to them,
their steamer trunks filled with dried husks,

while you, you’re drifting the other way,
your hair silvering against the silver waters,
carried now by some smaller craft of language,
something more like a summer camp canoe,

toward some more nostalgic harbor
you vaguely remember having once named,
perhaps after a woman once loved, fiercely desired,
who was that now, who was that
and just what was it you really wanted?

Mark Cox teaches in the Department of Creative Writing at UNC Wilmington and in the Vermont College MFA Program. Recent work has appeared in Brevity, 32 Poems and The Colorado Review. He has authored six volumes of poetry, most recently Readiness: Prose Poems (2018) and Sorrow Bread: Poems 1984-2015.

Originally published in NOR 15

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