I have not forgotten my vow.

Every morning I wipe the sweat
from the hollow of my master’s throat.
At first he can only move his eyes

then his jaw. On his dresser
stands a portrait of each ex-wife with her arm
around a different child.

I take his left arm in my lap like a mandolin
rescued from a burning cathedral, wonder
if all the houses I burned down

were my own—
their velvet skeletons
still blowing in the wind.

He mocks my Velcro wallet, the beauty
of my eyes. He tells me that one day
he will teach me everything I need

to know—how to touch a woman
on a roller-coaster, how to pull the ghost from a dress
floating in a river. I press the muscle

in his shoulder with my thumb
until it softens, move my hands
across his chest,

finding the pain in his body
as if it is my own—my own spine
dripping last night’s rainwater onto the mattress

my knees, two locked doors. Finally,
I spread a hot towel over his face
and see the woman he cannot

stop dreaming of. Her hair
vanishing into the air above him
like steam. He tells me

that every scar is an eye which,
after seeing too much, has been sealed
shut. And only after I leave the room

does he surrender to the pain.
Foam gathering on his lips, tears streaming
down his temples.

Sometimes, I forgive him. Sometimes,
I forgive myself.

Read on . . .

Family Portrait as a Collection of Bones,” a poem by
    Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach