For all the bother, it's the peeling away
we savored, the slow striptease
toward a tender heart—

how each petal dipped in the buttery sauce
was raked across our lower
teeth, its residue

less redolent of desire than sweet restraint,
a mere foretaste of passion,
but the scaly plates

piled up like potsherds in a kitchen midden,
a history in what's now
useless, discarded—

so we strained after less and less as the barbs
perhaps drew a little blood
and we cut our way

into the core to rid us of the fiber
that would stifle every ut-
terance between us.

In our quest for that morsel,
how we risked silence,
risked even

What Was Given

What was given came without 
the usual reasons—the earth

that day having completed
no meaningful circuit of the sun.

The giving should have been cause enough 
for surprise, or that hidden beneath

patterned folds of wrap, within 
a box large as any man's bewilderment,

waited some unknown thing, purchased 
after long labor. How undeserved,

that unreciprocated moment, 
when all the twisted paths

they'd walked together and alone, 
seemed to brighten at the first tug

on the bow, the paper hinging out 
like doors, the lid ready to come undone

as one stood there, still
too frightened to peer inside.