George David Clark

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.