Richard Bear: Grace

They do not always sit with an easy grace,
the aging: in afternoon light, even in October,
the cracks that invade her clear skin

show in relief, and he knows in dismay,
seeing her, his own once simple face
crowding itself, as when a life within

doors runs out of thought. Yet, sober
as this renders him, he will not turn away
from her to seek some easier play:

there is no win or lose, no hunt, no race,
no battle. His eyes would disrobe her,
for she is to him more than she has been,

and he would know all, even here,
as passers pass, not seeing what his eyes see;
but he will wait on her clear sign

that this is welcome, even from his gaze,
for she has known that men hold themselves dear,
and known too long their avarice that she

should shape to their dreams, their ways,
their endless drawing round her of sharp lines,
their wrapping an arm carelessly round her days,

their failing, in so many years, to touch the key
moment of her heart, that movement lacking fear
when she might freely give without design.

Placing her hand in his, she shifts and sighs;
a not unhappy sound, considering the hour
and how late, as well, this man has come to her:

five decades they have lived apart,
as though all meaning had had to be deferred;
as though autumn alone might show love's power;

as though some gods, having hated happy hearts,
had suddenly relented, offering them this prize.