A Tender System

Kimberly Grey

A tumor is not tender
I am trying to tell you why
I tend to tell
in a brackish way
because there’s a tendency to cover
die Schmerzen
(what I can’t yet say
I’ll say in German)
I’d lend you my back
that is blossom free
though would not take your back
back in return
that pain isn’t
that pain isn’t
that pain isn’t just
red and tender
there is a pain in telling
you why I don’t want to
understand it all, just
how the body tends
to transform
from good to bad slowly
in the middle of loving
you in the middle of the night
in the middle of life
who could talk
tenderly about the end
about how we tend to the dying
like sheep like sheep I’m sorry for
the world, I’m sorry for
everything that is not tender
like your blossomed-back
you loved me back
so the shape of love
has become the shape
of a tumor, a shape
not tender, a shape
that ends all shapes
endlessly, though
it’s not tender I will say it
more tenderly, I hope
you never, don’t ever
die (for me).

What Time Is, What Space

To turn over in bed and see you there
is to see you in a new hemisphere.
            The geography of desire
                        is boundless.
I’ve had vastness, I’ve crossed a body
before. It was not like this.
We are almost
            not living, we are almost
moving as fasted things move, without
            time. The mind is
a landscape like a room. Wherefrom I saw you
looking at me. Wherefrom I saw that looking
is an action. Wherefrom that action,
I put on your back and wore it
            just right. And all across the night
                        we shifted and we shifted into
magnificent shapes. This is what wears
out the body: the rushing together,
the weather of two bodies in the same small space.
            If we could stop time, we could stop time.
                        The universe could
have been many places. Now it is
just one place. We race and we race to it
            and when we arrive
            we are two tired, busted-out stars.
In a room wherefrom you are looking at me:
            what we obliterate is ours.

Kimberly Grey’s first book, The Opposite of Light, won the 2015 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize and is forthcoming from Persea Books in 2016. Her work has appeared in The Kenyon Review, Boston Review, Tin House, the Best New Poets anthology, and other journals. She was the recipient of a fellowship to Civitella Ranieri in Umbria, Italy and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, where she currently teaches creative writing.