Cake at Midnight

You come over for our date, supper,
conversation, then you study,
about 10 I crept into the bed next to you,
your books on your lap, and I lay there
and watched you surreptitiously, the concentration
on your face not unlike how you look
when your arms are around me, and your legs.

My heart is overflowing looking at you
remembering a couple of days before that same look
but not from you studying, and I drift off to sleep,
about 11:45 you are putting your books away
and I wake up and remember we never had dessert
with supper, and although I would like a different dessert,
my favorite thing to eat, I thought once
that if there was pussy-flavored ice cream, or maybe
seasoned salt someone could make a fortune on that
but of course it’s not just the taste,
it’s also the scent of arousal, it’s the softness,
sounds and movements, my beard getting soaked,
well, I digress, this night you are as exhausted as me,
so I cut two pieces of the lemon-rosemary birthday cake
you brought me from your weekend in Austin,
where you had a second date with the man
you had been chatting with, which was fun and also
a little awkward, cause there were those first-time-sex things
and he was perhaps embarrassed because he hasn’t contacted you again,
and part of me was sad for you about that
and part of me was, like, fuck yes I’m your Daddy
don’t forget who takes care of you, Princess.

So we sit at my little white pine dining table that I need to build
a new top for, but I am loathe to because I have had it literally
for 42 years and even though my ex-wife tried to ruin it
by leaving it outside for months after I had left,
before I could come get the rest of my things,
the joints between boards in the top have opened up a little
and it’s not exactly flat, well, when I was 42
I was getting a little looser and less flat myself,
she thought she was getting back at me with this,
like, I’m not a woodworker who made it in the first place?

Still, this table is meaningful to me in ways a new one wouldn’t be.
I remember all the women and a few men who have sat with me,
eating love made visible in food I cooked, drinking wine, 42 years ago
Simi Rose’ of Cabernet Sauvignon, I thought I was so sophisticated
for having a “real” rose’, then later on German wines, Ausleses mostly,
because, let’s face it, I grew up Jewish on Mogen David
and sweet wines are where it’s at, even though now
I am more likely to get a good Madiera
when I go to Maverick Grill with my other partner,
or like last night dinner, an oloroso sherry, deep brown and intense,
and now lately I am finally getting back into reds,
Rhones and Riojas, so I keep putting off remaking this table,
with all the memories that are embedded in the top
like the few remaining tiny pieces of glass that are also,
from where my ex threw my favorite deep cobalt blue
citrus reamer at me and it shattered on the table;
tiny fragments of blue glass still sometimes cut me slightly
when I clean, which is fitting, I am still cutting myself
against memories of the relationships that did not end well,
wishing that I had been a more compassionate person then,
but fuck, I had to live through hell to get to the beginnings of compassion.

We sit at that table, not really talking, there’s no need
your love is so obvious and I am enveloped in it
and all the little bits of glass embedded
in my skin are slowly being pulled out of me,
iron filings drawn to a magnet,
by the warmth you exude when you look at me,
tears welling up in my eyes;
my gratitude even more in that moment
that you did not know me in my asshole years,
when I was so self-unaware; all the others who have sat at this table,
the memories, mostly good, of who they were
and how I felt about them, cannot in this moment
even begin to approach what I have with you,
eating cake at midnight in our underwear.

Life routinely turns itself upside down:
You come into my bed, your head on my shoulder
opens long-unrehearsed paths, each time new,
my Princess and lover and heart’s delight:
I meet someone unexpectedly and they fit me
in ways I never could have imagined two days ago,
my power flares and spreads out my extremities
sparking from my fingers into her palm,
tigers and lilies and the unknown becoming real,
my thoughts cannot keep up with sensations;
the certainty I had 42 years ago
has given way to only a willingness to let go
of what might be and live in what actually is;
I know less and less each year;
but I do know some things:
on the other side of despair is clarity;
on the other side of heartbreak is joy.

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