364: Leaving the University Gym

364: Leaving the University Gym

364: Leaving the University Gym

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Leaving the University Gym
by Sasha Pimentel

not understanding how we celebrate
Our bodies. Every day we separate.
       — Marilyn Hacker

September, and the great stillness
of moonless night and cooling air, the city
in blue pockets in the hills, and just
under your hands, the current
of what’s forgotten. All week long, while
you were running, or reading, your forefinger
blurring the type, one season was slipping
into another, as lovers weave themselves
across a bed, odor of yeast
from the beer bread lifting through
the oven, the dog’s pad cracked, and in
class, you were watching one student
blink at another. There’s a time
to believe in love, you’d thought,
watching her rub her arm hair, and him
shift in his shirt, but then you believe all
things end, and you’d tried so carefully
to explain what Marilyn Hacker meant,
how we “wake to ourselves, exhausted,
in the late,” before you thought better
about it, staring down the rows, and cited
the fused limbs, and raised unlettered power
instead, the poem’s words comets’ tails
on blackboard. Now, you are finally leaving
campus, content this time your heart
has bettered the howl for sugar, your body
hot from the work of itself, when you push
through the glass door into fall—

and you remember a draft which was
just like this once, when, past
the dorm curfew, Tim was clutching
your elbows beside a lake, the air cricket
-thick, Cassiopeia encrusted in her collar.
There is no loneliness as knowing. Years

later, when you were drunk yet again,
at Le Lido, swimming the booth,
the waiter—cloudy in his captain’s suit—sat
with you. The gold-enameled dancer
was still mounting her white horse. He poured
the champagne. You sipped it softly.
Their muscles erupted into the shivering
other as they strutted circles against
the stage, animal and woman, and you were
grateful no one said a word. How
could you have named the chill
of her breasts, the terrible hot fur?
It was that gift of silence which happens
between strangers, out of country. Then
you’d walked home, tall cathedrals
bristling in the baubles of their unrung
bells. You’d turned your collar up
against the coming cold as you turn
up your jacket now, surprised
by the suddenness of the season
(or your own inattention to the small
shifts), your breath crystal in air—
and each stripe, marking separation
down the asphalt, is lamped
and glistening, eerie as snow, solstice
certain as the short drive ahead, to when
you must walk up to your dark, quiet
house, sink your key into the lock.

"Leaving the University Gym," by Sasha Pimentel, from FOR WANT OF WATER by Sasha Pimentel, copyright © 2017 Beacon Press. Used by permission of Beacon Press.