Year's End by Marilyn Hacker
for Audre Lorde and Sonny Wainwright
Twice in my quickly disappearing forties
someone called while someone I loved and I were
making love to tell me another woman had died of cancer.
Seven years apart, and two different lovers:
underneath the numbers, how lives are braided,
how those women's death and lives, lived and died, were
Does lip touch on lip a memento mori?
Does the blood-thrust nipple against its eager
mate recall, through lust, a breast's transformations
sometimes are lethal?
Now or later, what's the enormous difference?
If one day is good, is a day sufficient?
Is it fear of death with which I'm so eager
to live my life out
now and in its possible permutations
with the one I love? (Only four days later,
she was on a plane headed west across the
Men and women, mortally wounded where we
love and nourish, dying at thirty, forty,
fifty, not on barricades, but in beds of
tell me, senators, what you call abnormal?
Each day's obits read as if there's a war on.
Fifty-eight-year-old poet dead of cancer:
laid down with the other warrior women.
Both times when the telephone rang, I answered,
wanting not to, knowing I had to answer,
go from two bodies'
infinite approach to a crest of pleasure
through the disembodied voice from a distance
saying one loved body was clay, one wave of
mind burst and broken.
Each time we went back to each other's hands and
mouths as to a requiem where the chorus
sings death with irrelevant and amazing