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My First Lover Returns from Iraq

By Keetje Kuipers (written in 2004)

After all these years of not loving you,
you’ve become the man I build
every poem from, your naked shape
the clay I mold to place at the base of a tree
or in the soft folds of a morning bedroom.
I make your hands into fruit and set them
in bowls, your feet flower from the ends
of frayed pants. In my poems, I’m unable
to mend them. Sometimes you walk, usually
you don’t speak. I can’t seem to give you the words
though all I want is to hear your voice.
What I’m afraid to write is what I dream
at night, when you seem to come to me of your own desire.
And I’m ashamed to want you still, inside me
now as you were then, though you’ve been
dead these three months, the shrapnel
strung through your lungs like ribbon,
dust filling the reddest caverns of your flesh.
I was the last to be told. And yours
is the only body that visits me now:
your sweat-laden skin, the light it makes
for itself, as if in that darkened room
you had gathered every burning object to you
and you alone shone.

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