Io and Other Poems


Io

Of course, everyone wondered
about the sex: how Jane and she were handling it
since the bike accident last May left her
quadriplegic. Perhaps some always
wondered: Jane, the pretty teacher
who left her husband for her; she, the thin-
hipped, almond-eyed pastry chef who biked
each day to the café where she worked,
swinging her ten-speed over a shoulder just
like a boy,
Jane said, delighting
in this strength, though now she couldn’t swing
a cat over her shoulder. Her arms
she can barely lift past her sides, her legs
are gone, the spinal cord severed
from when the car behind her clipped
a tire, sending her face-first
into the pavement. Having learned
she’d never walk again, her own
next thoughts gravitated to sex: nights
with Jane curled on the living-room futon
they used as a couch until they gave up
all pretense and left the bedspread
open, to let them move more easily
from talking to making love, the burn
of sex’s ache still vivid in her, stunned
by the fact it is not numbness now
but total feeling that defines her. Her body
is no longer the source of pleasure
but constant pain, a dim prickling
in thighs and feet, phantom
throbbings up through her pelvis, though
it is the pleasure that she mourns
most clearly: the slight dampness
to her scalp after a run, or the tightening
muscles in her legs as she stood
and pushed against the bike pedals.

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