The Lover's Story
by Christopher Hennessy
Emperor Ai of the Han Dynasty, rather than wake his lover, asleep on his royal gown, cut the sleeve as proof of his devotion.
was enough to make him want me.
I needed only a push to the ground,
the choke of his panicked kiss.
Sleepily, I circled him, entranced,
then a languorous fall
to his feet to trail my tongue
ankle to waste,
the seduction concealed
under the robes. Blindness,
the perfect muscle of faith.
Imagining ourselves strangers.
After sex, I only pretended to sleep,
nesting in the folds of his robe.
Hidden in the sleeve—a purple sail.
I chewed my lip to keep awake,
in his love or a promise of mine.
Had I heard the rip as his teeth cut
into the robe's silk, I'd have shouted:
Old Fool, you ruin your gown
for a delicate coward, for the hush
of your mouth on mine.
Or, had we not been so in love,
I could have whispered:
My emperor, make soft noises
as you leave, quick gasps of grief,
so I can hold myself to the dark.
Christopher Hennessy is the author of Outside the Lines: Talking with Contemporary Gay Poets(University of Michigan Press). He earned an MFA from Emerson College and currently is a Ph.D. candidate in English Literature at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He was included in Ploughshares' special "Emerging Writers" edition, and his poetry, interviews, and book reviews have appeared in American Poetry Review, Verse, Cimarron Review, The Writer's Chronicle, The Bloomsbury Review, Court Green, OCHO, Crab Orchard Review, Natural Bridge, Wisconsin Review, Brooklyn Review, Memorious, and elsewhere. Hennessy is a longtime associate editor for The Gay & Lesbian Review-Worldwide.
Thank you, Christopher.