I remember those first years of making love
in Chicago, Saigon, Santa Fe, Tucson,
Los Angeles, and a cliff in Mexico --
each time your hand was on my breast I would think:
child child child.
It took a long while to get there –
I was 23, recovering from Danceteria, Palladium, Nell’s.
Only four years my senior, you sported a suit and a prodigious
mustache. You didn’t smoke and only drank two beers at a time.
So for five years we stole hallway flirtations, awkward non-dates,
and I’d complain about ramrod administrators and curmudgeonly colleagues,
those same professors who bellowed to you: “Marry Boltwoman already!”
The conspiracy extended to strangers. At an outdoor concert:
“Dear, you must marry a man who prepares you food.”
Chocolate dipped strawberries, taboule, humous, and wine.
But darling, we didn’t marry.
I ran away to New Mexico
with a suicidal long haired wannabe rocker,
even younger and more foolish than I.
But before I moved your mother died, and we spent that sweltering
August day together: cocooned with photographs, stories.
I smelled your youth, dreams, you, but was already packed,
so we had only lingering scent and letters.
Two winters later I traveled to Philadelphia to claim you,
but you left me boozy and waiting in a café until you finally
entered, straightening your jacket, fervor under your lids.
There was no good reason for you to trust in me,
but with a visible sigh, you chose to anyway.
After three nights together we sat drowsy
over soggy pancakes in a New Jersey turnpike diner,
and decided to marry. You were too mature for me, still are.
Me, sneaking off to arcades -- vintage Centipede, Ms. Pacman.
You, reading all the papers, listening to Bach.
Me, a child runaway, former substance abuser,
aging hip-hop fan. You, a suburban college track star,
who only puked once -- spaghetti in your mother’s flower bed.
You clean. I loose things. When I left my faux-fur hat on the car,
I asked if you really wanted to marry such an absentminded broad.
You shrugged, “As long as you don’t leave the child on the car.”
And I haven’t! Not once! Though I left his knapsack.
And lunchbox. And drove home with them both on the hood.
And when people honked, I thought they liked
my bumper stickers, so I waved.
To me, you are Armenia. You’ve had to leave and leave
for hundreds of years
When I think of leaving
I know, there should be no more departures,
yet it is all departures.
I learned to make Armenian ceramics in the style of your grandfather
who fled to Jerusalem from Turkey to re-tile the Dome of the Rock.
You love that I alone carry on some form of the tradition.
You love that like your mother, I am a teacher and poet.
I love that you saved me from bounced checks, that you debate politics by my side.
I love the occasional glimpse of ardor behind your calm dark eyes.
Together, we collected Indian and Islamic pottery, Buddhas, Mexican furniture.
We raise a child not from my womb, but the tumult and beauty of the world’s.
Together, we love this child fiercely.
We are the sum and total of our years together, our night’s apart.
Our suns and moons set on different hours, seeking touch in dreams.
“Watch a movie?” “Too tired.” “Travel?” “Mortgage.”
“Stop puttering!” “Too much to do.” “Leave the dishes.” “No.”
“Bush is a bastard, the human race is a plague, and there is no God.”
“Yes. Yes. Maybe.”
On the cliff in Mexico the sun was scorching.
We smelled sage, desert, heard ancient whisperings --
suddenly you were in me, animal, thrusting.
Below us echoed eternity, unremitting – empty and large.
©2007 by Julie Bolt
Julie Bolt is an Assistant Professor of English at
Bronx Community College and lives in Washington Heights . She writes about critical pedagogy
and the borders of land and mind for journals such as Radical Teacher and The Journal
for Education and Cultural Studies. Her stories and poems have appeared in The Red River Review, Syntax,
The Taj Mahal Review, Thieves Jargon, Zygote in My Coffee, and Slow Trains,
among others. The greatest joy of her life is her son. Otherwise, she hopes to travel widely and live long