Lynne Procope is a Cave Canem fellow and a former National Poetry Slam champion (Team: Nuyorican NYC 1998). She
is co-author of the collaborative collection, Burning Down the House (Soft Skull, 1999) and her work appears in Washington Square Review, Quarter After Eight and the Spoken Word Revolution Redux, Drums Voices, His Rib, Word Warriors and Bowery Women-Poems anthologies, among others. She is a poet in residence with Vision Into Art and is executive director of the louderARTS Project.
The morning after they first make love, she washes
his hands at the kitchen sink. He stands close
behind her, his arms round her body. In this hour
they are both bare to the shimmering light of the
window glass. She draws a boning knife from the block.
Her fingers, he remembers, have a quicksilver grace.
His breath is a race then a drowning. This woman
holds her sharpness in plain sight. He wants to withdraw
but the light on her spine shimmers; a lure in clear water.
There’s a hum of electricity or late summer cicadas
in the air and she is gentle pressing the point of her blade
below the nail of his index finger, her touch is delicate,
she draws no blood, causes this lover no pain. She shaves
each finger clean, clips each at the quick, thumbs
the rounded edges just to be sure. Some tenderness
begs to deconstruct the body, slips the wings from
hummingbirds, draws the fins from angelfish, safeguards
each beautiful piece in keepsake boxes. There’s always
a love that pulls us from the air with such sweetness
we die before we touch the ground and, wingless
believe the box is all we want. The box in its way knows
nothing amiss in the shuttered iridescence of flight.
But then there is another tender. One that flings us,
bared body, up (up) into the first starless sky it sees.
It dares us to take wing.
Finger by thick hard worn finger, she pulls his dirt,
cuts away his carelessness, promises him one small treat
of her body for each finger before she soaps and rinses him
clean. Here’s a man the hour before he knows he’s fallen
in love. He’s minding his hands for the first time. He sees
the grit of himself dug away. He’s the rush, flounder
of the fall, utter surrender of the body, box unfolding against
its will. He is the grace of what escapes, a night flown into
that discovers it is suddenly wildly starred.
He’s the wing. He’s the wing.