Poem 11 ± World AIDS Day 2017

Barbara Rockman
Ladder of bone rungs a love poem

I could barely get a finger hold      slender chest 
I fell against     impossible height to him
wraith of a man    corpse I insisted on    I had no foothold  
how his concave met me    oh barely-there man   
my body greater than      A girl wants linear and light-filled  
the length of tracks that tightens at the horizon  
Even his arms were see-through   his thighs were rigging 
for what would never sail      How hungry for kindness    
he was sapling     my prowling orchard      his long fingers 
hovered but did not hold    His burnt thumbs    stubs I pocketed 
I traced his skeleton collapsed from hanging    joints and 
hinges splayed     we rearranged    he  my half-heart   I  his already-sung
beautiful ridged man and the pandemic so far off 
it might be cloud over the street lamp we stood under   
those nights before autumn’s long windows    
before book spines cracked beneath us    
before ashes wormed and hung 
as the shutters of his chest closed       
as he turned toward what would kill him 
and still     I clung 

logoBarbara Rockman is the author of Sting and Nest (Sunstone Press, 2011), winner of the New Mexico-Arizona Poetry Book Award and the National Press Women Book Prize; and Into Moss and Singing (forthcoming from University of New Mexico Press) .Her poems appear in Calyx, Bellingham Review, Cimarron Review, Louisville Review, Nimrod and bosque. Rockman lives and teaches writing in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is Workshop Coordinator for the Wingspan Poetry Project, which brings poetry to victims of domestic violence.

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This poem first appeared in Askew.