Reprieve

by Casey FitzSimons

He usually felt used up, dried out.
He knew other men his age
barely aware that they were getting old.
This morning he felt like a regular man.
She had everything to do with that.

She still lay curled toward him, dry hands
cupped into each other, snuggled
into his armpit. Looking there he saw
his own saggy man-breast—
curly gray hairs, retreating nipple.
Straightened hairs of his armpit splayed
around her knuckles. She made him
feel okay about his body.

He’d thought that bringing her to bed
would be self-destructive: She would discover
his impotence; her ridicule
would compete with his self-loathing.
Immaterial, exactly how it might end. Certainty
is what he’d wanted, the doubling of fact.
What he’d be certain of thereafter
didn’t matter either, just
finality, affirmation of some kind.

Dark hair fell over her face, shiny
but not clean, in clumps, separated
as if from cowlicks in her scalp,
as if destiny held the hairs together
as they grew and reached this length.
He could not remember
what she looked like.

He did not remember undressing except
for his thumbs moving down
his flanks, brief lift from the bed
to scoop off his shorts.
And his socks. He had taken off
his socks—a rasping sound over dry
heels and again, his thumbs.

He did not remember
her undressing either, only that
she entered his bed naked, the back
of his flailing hand colliding with
the underside of her breast. In the dark
vacuum above the bed, it had seemed
detached, a floating object, cool
and obscenely putty-like.
He’d been moving his hand in a feeble
gesture of accommodation not
specific to her or to
her position in space. She had not lain
but knelt, his body rolling slightly
into the well of her weight.

She was as silent then
as she was now. He could not
reconstruct the rest of it. It hadn’t been
sustained arousal and violent release
of teenage sex nor the efficient
passionless procedure he’d practiced
with his wife. It was something
she knew how to do, something
she directed that his body
recognized, fell in league with.

She had touched his head, his ears,
brought her warm hands down his ribs
into his groin, held his inert penis
gently in the cocoon of both her palms.
It had made him cry.

Casey FitzSimons is a frequent featured reader at San Francisco Bay Area poetry venues. Her poems have appeared in print and online in The Sand Hill Review, The Newport Review, Hobo Camp Review, EarthSpeak, The Prose-Poem Project, flashquake, Leveler, Astropoetica, and others. She has been a finalist in the River Styx and Writecorner Press poetry competitions and recently honored in the Ina Coolbrith Circle and Maggi H. Meyer 33 competitions. Her chapbooks include Riding Witness (2012) and No Longer Any Need (2011). She has a master’s degree in Fine Arts from San Jose State University.

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