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Years End

 for Audre Lorde and Sonny Wainwright

Twice in my quickly disappearing forties
someone called while someone I loved and I were
making love to tell me another woman had died of cancer.
Seven years apart, and two different lovers: underneath the numbers, how lives are braided, how those women's death and lives, lived and died, were interleaved also.
Does lip touch on lip a memento mori? Does the blood-thrust nipple against its eager mate recall, through lust, a breast's transformations sometimes are lethal? Now or later, what's the enormous difference? If one day is good, is a day sufficient? Is it fear of death with which I'm so eager to live my life out now and in its possible permutations with the one I love? (Only four days later, she was on a plane headed west across the Atlantic, work-bound.
) Men and women, mortally wounded where we love and nourish, dying at thirty, forty, fifty, not on barricades, but in beds of unfulfilled promise: tell me, senators, what you call abnormal? Each day's obits read as if there's a war on.
Fifty-eight-year-old poet dead of cancer: warrior woman laid down with the other warrior women.
Both times when the telephone rang, I answered, wanting not to, knowing I had to answer, go from two bodies' infinite approach to a crest of pleasure through the disembodied voice from a distance saying one loved body was clay, one wave of mind burst and broken.
Each time we went back to each other's hands and mouths as to a requiem where the chorus sings death with irrelevant and amazing bodily music.

by Marilyn Hacker
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