A Time to Refrain from Embracing

Kiss my bruises like you kiss my lips—
     try to feel now what you felt then, no
     other flesh you’d rather hit than this,
     no other moment than when you met
     your man, a match heaven itself once
     handed down, fire lit when what sudden
     loneliness gives is more than what your
     wishes get, when I was him, willing
          to greet the grave instead of one night

without your touch, in that luminous
     pale, the ivory tomb of which we
     share as an indentured memory,
     serving us only if both our teeth
     and our tongues together meet to peace
     a covenant, where it was torn love
     ended up burning our coterie,
     a cautery turning our only
          family into our enemies,

deep wounds we vowed we’d never allow
     keep us from getting down, yet somehow
     when aches replace affection, feeling
     up what we mistake for perfection,
     a time to refrain from embracing
     presents its petition, breaking us
     when it’s overdue, pain chucking out
     deuces who rain-check love’s winning hand
          when we who gamble it always lose,

so kiss my bruises, lick these wounds your
     existence inflicted before I
     let you into mine, rearranging
     this antic room of shadows so few
     have been able to move, your light my
     panic’s antidote, my reclusion
     a pyre my blindest denial styled
     a highest pedestal, a tower
     whose funerary smoke you spied from
          across the room or over many

miles—who’s to say?—but reach again down
     into it, this jumbled pile of slight
     wreckage and heavy baggage, find how
     a coward humbles himself, the sound
     of a melting crown subtle enough
     for you to intuit if you wet
     with your own, this silver tongue its gold
     hid well, this fear of mine of never
          again giving myself to someone.