Today's poem is by Erin Murphy

Descartes's Lover

When a husband weeps over a
dead wife...in spite of this,
in his innermost soul he feels
a secret joy.

—Rene Descartes

What of a father for his daughter?
She was a baby, barely
able to separate her own body

from mine. I remember
the day she discovered her nose:
she twisted it in her fist

as if uncorking a wine bottle
until—coming to accept it—
she patted it like a kitten.

She was your impossibility:
the only time one plus one
equaled one, and you

studied her the way
I've watched you study those
Dutch still-life paintings.

If you could, you'd set right
every teacup precariously
balanced, every spoon, crust

of bread, skull, pheasant,
pear, wine glass. You're troubled
especially by the red brocade

rug that fancies itself a wall,
swallowing the room's
contents—chair, map, vase,

telescope—troubled, too,
by tiny limbs restless
to hold and be held,

by wails which could mean
hunger, a soiled breech, fear.
Sickness. If you had known

her as a small child, perhaps you
would have seen that perfection
can come from things

imperfect. Perhaps you would have
teased her: I think therefore
I'm a yam, or a ham, or a jar

of jam. You think therefore
you'll scram, my little apple
of the earth, if you know what's good.

You can doubt everything:
the sweetness of honey;
a bee's sting; a pencil

bent in water; the pool
of candle wax from a night
of love; the universe

dancing around Earth,
its sullen partner; the smell
of roses wafting through

your window while you,
at noon, are still
in bed, your meditations

scattered about you
like handkerchiefs
after a night's fever.

But can you deny
a body swollen with you
to a lob-sided circle,

or the womb of sweet earth
that buried our child,
my love?

Copyright © 2004 Erin Murphy All rights reserved
from Science of Desire
Word Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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