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Could I Revive Within Me

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Once the cold has passed that point where it aches to breathe in, time begins to change meaning. A second is the length of time you can think about something besides the dull stinging under the numbness of fingers and toes. A minute is the length of time you can stay in the same position before muscles clenched against the cold begin to spasm.

An hour is a meaningless concept; you might as well measure the length of a man's body in Astronomical Units as measure time in the cold in hours.

Her body shifted under his. "Your turn to talk." Her voice was raw from talking for seconds or for days.

Shards of poetry scratched at his numbed mind, but soon shattered, fell to words, then letters. "I'll send you all my love every day in a letter, sealed with a kiss."

She bent her head up and kissed him, her lips terribly rough against his. "Better words. Better words." her breath seemed hot in his mouth.

"In Xanadu--"

"No. Not Coleridge." She kissed his cold cheek with cold lips. Her eyes were closed. "Tell me a story."

He couldn't remember a single one. "There once . . . there once . . . In the rooms the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo." The words came from his pinched throat coarsened, but on-key.

"Eliot. Prufrock... but I didn't know there was music."

"I just... I made it up."

"Sing the rest."

But all he could remember was, "I have heard the mermaids singing each to each. I do not think they will sing to me."

She shifted under him again, and kissed his mouth again, gently. "Tell me about the warmest place you've ever been."

"I had a room in Calumet, last year. It was summer, and I was chasing a murderer. I couldn't sleep, it was so hot, and they didn't have any airconditioning."

"If we were there, I could touch you."

Nervously, he kissed her. Her teeth were cold and smooth as porcelain. When he shifted his body he felt the rub of her against him, even through all the layers. "Victoria."

She began saying her poem again then, slowly, mindlessly. She moved so gently. When he kissed her again, the words of the poem went into his mouth.

The poem went on and on, arrythmic, a subtle sound to move in, to be moved against in.

He never knew what she felt, through so many layers, though she shuddered once, deeply, beneath him. His own eyes clouded, darkened terrifyingly, and for an awful second a wave of heat passed over him and sweat stood out on his brow. Then he was limp, and he echoed the empty words of the poem into her ear, sighing.

It was a long time before he started thinking in hours again, and even years later, in another lover's arms, he secretly measured time in the length of poems.

 

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1996

to Sharon P and Marie Leonard