Psyche, At Midnight, in the Dark

by Larry Hammer

She waited one full year and one day more
but still he didn't tell her. And when for
one more last time she asked to see the face
that in the darkness she could only trace,
he stopped her with a finger on her lips --
"You cannot." She could not resist love-nips
or gulps -- they rarely talked in bed, love-caught -- 
and so once more surrendered. They had taught
each other's bodies like a blind man learns
his house, a tactile map of home concerns;
she knew he wasn't human from his wings --
light, delicate yet strong, delightful things
for flying bedroom games or wrapping her
in pinions softer than an otter's fur.
She knew the stories. After this sweet year
in bed together, physically sincere,
didn't he trust her with the truth? And worse --
why hadn't yet her kisses cured his curse?
And so she'd gathered, bit by part, a lamp,
forbidden in their house: the finest stamp
of bathing oils, wick twisted from her loom,
a shallow bowl, kept in the other room
with steel and stone. Another week went by
until she could no longer stand the lie,
the ignorance, the guesses and surmises
that flowed about her like a storm creek rises,
and, now, she waited till he slipped to sleep,
then slid from bed in silent midnight creep.
Her quiet, wavering flame could barely dent
the dark to show her way, and, so intent
upon this shadowed form that she'd embraced,
she tangled her foot in clothing, strewn in haste,
and stumbled -- and to keep from falling grasped
the bedpost. Breathe. Then she leaned close -- and gasped. 

He'd said plain truth about her seeing him:
beyond the rainbow feathers, long and slim,
and one red scratch, unhealed, upon his shoulder
(as if an arrow'd scored a careless holder),
her flooded eyes, to her arid despair,
could make no mortal sense of face, nor hair,
nor hollow of his collar, which felt smooth.
He didn't look -- he just was. His own truth.
No monster, no enchanted beast, no king
held captive by a witch's conjuring
or ogre with a ring of spelling crows.
And in that time between a drop of rose
and lily dripping from the dish, and splash
on his bare chest, she knew how wrong, how rash
her heeding her sisters' tales of love dismayed,
of fairies, charming princes, maids betrayed --
for, here, two visions held her: one, she only,
grown old without him, lone, alone, and lonely;
the other, both together, as a sum
of one & one, not two, not one, but some
new number that's both one and two; and she,
with certainty of pulse and marrow, she
must live the latter -- she would give up all
to hold that whole, do anything at all
to stop tale-spinning -- learn in sincerity
and sorrow, sere and seared, to clearly see
his self, his him, his who he was, instead
of keeping lives unshared outside of bed --
do any task of heaven's citadel,
anything -- even harrow heart and Hell.
And then the hot oil landed, burning badly. 

Eyes opened, grey. "Oh Soul,"  he whispered, sadly,
then flickered out like candle in a gust,
or Love in hoarded doubt and clutched mistrust.

Larry Hammer lives in the sunny desert of southern Arizona, where the days are very bright but the nights are dark. His favorite fruit is the prickly pear.

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