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60| Vetige

Christopher Kempf


In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity . . .
-Sonnet 60

Sometime after it is over, both
of us shut in our months
of silence, you say
there is for you one final kindness
I can render. You let
the claw-foot fill. I fold
your clothes on the toilet top & watch
as you lower your ass to the water. & when
it has softened the hard
marble-sized cyst there, your ass
in the air & also
because it is how I know
to show affection, I press
my thumbs down draining
the milky fluid. To groom
its mate, the macaque
of southeast Asia rakes
every inch of fur with its teeth. The cleaner
fish — found
on reefs in the Pacific — affixes
itself to its host & for most
of its life survives
on the other's dust. You thrust
your red backside skyward
with its cyst. This, you say,
is where the tail was. As once,
in the dark crucible of the human, homo
erectus left the trees & turning
to his new body followed
the paths of diaspora
toward the future. Followed
the horn of Africa. The paths
across the strait & south
through California. Followed
the Andes like a spine. You say
it is late. & like
it has always done the sun
slides again tonight to the Pacific. You lift
yourself to your feet & feel
behind you the nothing
I have left, the vestige, love, of what
once we were.

Christopher Kempf is a Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University. His work has appeared recently in Gulf Coast, The New Republic, and Prairie Schooner, among other places. He currently lives in Oakland.

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