In the predawn murk when the porch lights hang
on suburban porches like soft lemons
my love rides out in his black car.
His high beams stroke our bedroom wall.
Half awake, I feel watched over and doze
afloat in swirls of white linen.
Then he's at the Y in trunks I bought him
sleek as an otter, eyes open behind goggles.
He claws the length of his lane.
Oh but his flip turn makes of his body
a spear, and his good heart drubs.
We often call at odd hours from different
star points of the globe. But today
he'll stop home to deposit a hot coffee
on my bedside. For years I fought
moving to this rich gulag because I thought
it was too white or too right or too dumb, but
really, as Blake once said,
I couldn't bear the beams of love.
Mary Karr is the Peck Professor of Literature at Syracuse University. This poem comes from her book Tropic of Squalor (New York: HarperCollins, 2018).