The Glimmering Creature

Rachel Mennies

      after Anne Sexton

The first man peeled an orange every night

over the sink, and I studied him alone,

my hip riding the doorframe. At seventeen, I

thought a man’s tastes were what you married.

His searching fingers stung inside my mouth.

The citrus oil always stained the bed.

At twenty, each night I slept in a different bed.

Understand: my throat opened around the night

and the men called my hunger reflexive.

They touched me, but I felt my pleasure alone.

Finished, I’d look to my audience, ready to marry

the nearest outstretched hand or searching eye.

Who can I blame for this failure? At first, I

asked my body, who wouldn’t leave the bed.

I knew the old-wives’ trope: no sex after marriage,

listened for my parents, quiet together at night —

only I in the world couldn’t stop. Alone,

I married myself. I stopped my counting,

for the problem with blame lies in the accounting:

a fist cannot then love a swelling eye.

I imagine that first man — alone

in his kitchen, hands sticky and feeding. In bed

with each next woman, he tastes the nights

with me. This is a deception I will marry.

My love, perhaps someday you too will marry.

She’ll take apart your bookshelf while she cleans,

then sleep while you reorder it each night.

We call these lies fidelity. Instead, I

bend over before you, my elbows on the bed —

your face pressed to my back. Alone,

this is how I will lose you. I walk alone

down Harvard Street at dawn, already married

to another man. It smells like oranges in our bed.

What should I have learned? — I know new love

tastes different from its penances. I

suck it from my fingers every night.

Tonight, I palm the rounded flesh alone.

I marry every segment of my blame.

I put my love to bed inside my mouth.

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