The Bride’s Warm Breast in Her Groom’s Warm Hand
He is holding this grenade he’s found
in the clammy fog of five am
and he’s pulled the pin somehow on accident.
To let it go will spring the lever.
That, or he’s clasping an ornate doorknob,
warm from fire in the room beyond,
and he can’t decide if he should enter.
Doing so might be heroic
though he can’t imagine where
the door might lead or what he’d find
inside to rescue: an orchid maybe
from a massive steel-frame greenhouse
where the flames turn cartwheels
in the countless panes of glass;
a Kama Sutra signed by Rati
and mis-shelved among a great library’s
hundred thousand volumes
on their crackling way to ash;
or just a couple top-shelf fifths
of bourbon as the sprawling liquor store
there in the red light district
of the heart ignites to sear the fragrances
of gravity and fine amnesia through
the fiercely hissing air. Her breast
is warm. So much so that he won’t be able
to keep hold of it much longer now
without discomfort, the brilliant nipple
in the center of his palm particularly heated,
though perhaps he only fancies that.
A little rivet of ardor, that nipple,
a nail, like the tack by which some fool
might post outside St. Peter’s
three or four or ninety-five
brash theses on indulgence, on desire,
as he will if he ever learns the sweet
calligraphy required to lay them down
on vellum. Her breast is warm and more
than warm. And his mouth is dry—
her long hair on and in it slightly.
He would cough, but that might wake her.
Instead, he lets his arm go hollow. From her breast
to his shoulder and on up through his throat
he becomes a contorted chimney,
her black hair spooling out from his red lips
like smoke. He is holding an ember,
but soft, not an ember but a globe
of gently worn-in dusk light—
what a frugal god might use to read by.
A lamp then, only now it’s shaded
by the bed sheet and his warming hand.
Her breast is warm, his hand
has made it warmer, and at last he must
release it. There’s a nimble grayness
at the hotel window. Bride and groom
unspoon and he rolls slowly over
to the nightstand where a tumbler waits.
The ice from last night has melted,
but both the glass and the water
inside it are still extremely cool.
“The Bride’s Warm Breast in Her Groom’s Warm Hand” first appeared in The Cincinnati Review, vol. 14, no. 1, 2017.