I wrote down the first shell of this poem two years ago in my journal. I was in a poetry class at the time, taught by a rather brilliant man who had asked us earlier that week, “What is a poem to you? Does the poem makes the subject concrete?” He made me really think through every word, and I eventually thought this up. I still think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written.
I wear your arms about me as a dress,
a cloak of solidarity.
The curve of my hips will be pockets for when you are cold;
the knobs of my spine are your instruments,
so that when we are too poor for comfort
we can stand on street corners and earn a meal.
You smell right to me,
like soap and clean air,
like fresh mown grass and coffee and the dirt of summer.
There is a tree on the corner,
old and knotted from exposure to the elements of many years.
When storms come,
he sways without fuss and stands because he has always stood.
Let us put our roots down deeper than mere soil,
and when the rages come we too will stand because we have always stood,
twisted and twined together as though we did not spring from separate beds
but have always been of one bark and one leaf.
There are four grey whiskers in your beard,
I counted them last night when I could not sleep.
We have not been one for long, my darling,
but we are growing older.
Sing me a beautiful melody now, and when your beard is all grey
with four brown whiskers,
I will sing it back to you
and our pitch will be perfect still.