She hated loving to be with me, I with her.
I had angina, cancer of the testicles.
Staggered against my pulse to their own odd beat,
spasms in my left ear drum lasted three or four
days at a time. As they’d slacken, I’d count how many
breaths I could steal before the next one popped.
She let me tap them out on the back of her hand.
I couldn’t get them right. My finger was late.
I had to keep saying
“No, not then”
and, still alone with them, start over, thinking we were
both crazy, how could it matter and could she maybe
hear them with her ear against my ear?
James McMichael teaches at the University of California at Irvine and is the author of Four Good Things, published by Houghton Mifflin. (1990)