Dark Land of Desire

My freshman year you worked at the bookstore
across from campus. I always watched you,
mostly your hands because I was shy, your hands
turning pages, shifting stacks of books.
Some days—fall when a cool wind
rattled the sycamores and paper cups whirled along
swooping concrete curbs, I built us a dream house
of nearly naked rooms and windows
streaked blue with summer rain. In them we were naked,
our tongues free as birds. We could tell each other our oddest
dreams—the one where your hair kept burning
all night, the one where I gave birth to a sparrow of ice.
You instantly understood, though in truth
I never spoke to you beyond once asking change of a five.
Some weeks my imagination worked overtime.
I gave us a stained porcelain sink,
a lock which stuck, drains clogged with my thick hair.
Years later you stopped me on the street,
introduced yourself, said "We've been
neighbors a long time." And I felt myself
slide into wonder, a place where it seemed possible
you, too, had roamed that skeleton of house,
studied me naked on the bed in my long yellow coat,
or tearing a comb through your gold-wet hair.
Your wrists were bony. You wrote down your number;
I never called it. It wouldn't have worked anyway. Once we met
by chance in a bar and argued until closing.
You said you liked people who were straightforward,
which I clearly wasn't. And you were right.
Those days, I lied all the time. Yet still sometimes
in the midst of my real life—in my house
of husband, rumpled beds, children's games,
I see the house I made for us. It is very pale in a dusky night—
the bare walls reflecting such intensities of light—
and the things I chose for us are still there—ladder-backed wooden chair,
cracked rain slicker on the hook by the door,
tin plates with scratched blue rims—
random pieces of the real and beautiful world I have stolen
and turn over in my dreaming hands.