“Boyfriend Blues at 55”

Click here to listen to Sharon Olds read this poem. It’s as if, with him, I was always hiding, somehow, even while lying behind him, in the bed in those long stretches of the night laid out, full-length, sated, parallel behind the opulent tumuli of his body, I was always just slightly afraid. Mostly I thought of dangers to him, as he did, the way a free being is dogged by the fondness of others. So I’d lie pretty still, and attend the concert of his snoring, as if I were hearing the edges of the solid world torn by the liquid. All along, I think now, somewhere deep inside him, there was a pool where the small flame of love was brought, and carried low to the surface so it shone doubled, it beat like a creature flying, and then it was lowered in. And my task was to pretend the doused fire could rise out again as if the soaking surface were a flint—my task was to witness the refusal of love and to assist at it.