To find for yourself, at this late stage,
something like joy. To tease up her skirts,
a dirty old man. To moisten your fingers almost
jubilantly. To touch and be stirred, even a little.
To be content with this. Why not? Near-joy knows you well
enough. You’ve flirted with her all your life: the cream
sodas on hot afternoons, the colorfully wrapped birthday gifts
given and received, the sodden aftermaths of school dances,
the jokes well told, the long aimless drives in September.
She spreads herself wide through these.
Back when you still had all your hair, when you
didn’t buy E.D. treatments on the Internet,
you had no idea that joy wouldn’t give it over,
that she was saving herself for someone else.
She withheld, so you drunk-dialed the one who came
in that sorry dress six years hopelessly past fashion,
and you did what you did and liked it.
And that was okay, like now. But now
it’s better because you know and can smile
minutely that she’s what you’ve got, sure thing.
—from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems
Byron Case: “Confined for many years to maximum-security prison, I haven’t exactly had a surfeit of opportunity for intellectual satisfaction. Ditto creative indulgence. Which is to say, as much as for the childish delight I get from language, I write for a sense that my inner life, at least, isn’t being wasted.” (website)