Back to Issue Forty-Five

Desire Room



On the sunny-side of the fountain,
ragged face of moist stone glistening

copulating snails, hermaphrodites,
male and female, female and male,

cool water immersing gelatinous feet,
conical domes of their backs. Their

mounting in this open room of desire
holds my stunned admiration.

Unabashed sex is their nature—
love darts and heavy petting, penis

sunk into the slime of pursed vagina,
concerto of climax, deliquesce

of ejaculation. In the early years
of our courtship, in a tiny house

with only one shower, daily
togetherness slick under fine spray.

It was our job to be young, lather
each other until we shone

with uninhibited need. Confessions
we spoke, sliding from lips

into steam-soaked air. Wetness
sparked every live wire inside us

and we dove from the cliff of want
incendiary, burning at both ends.

Twenty-six winters, we’ve shared
a home by the sea with two showers
and less of our bodies, more of something
else—infinite threads refined as silk.

In the desire room, I’m an elegant flower
preserved between the pages of a book.

In the desire room, I’m furtive, all shivers
and breath, liquid and sin, corporeal
as the moon is a body waning. Some things
haven’t changed.

This is my job now. To be young despite
years that slim to a justified end.
There is no river without the want for it,
no rain that isn’t divine.

I return throughout the day
to the fountain, linger. Body of a snail
prolapsed on the body of a snail.

In the heat, asparagus fern and jasmine,
blue jay lavishing in the bath,
two monarch butterflies
descend then arouse in flight.

Paola Bruni is a poet and playwright residing in Aptos, CA. She is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, winner of the Morton Marcus Poetry Prize, and winner of the Muriel Craft Bailey Poetry Prize, as well as a finalist for the Mudfish Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in such journals as The Southern Review, Ploughshares, Five Points Journal, Rattle, and elsewhere. Her debut book of poetry is an epistolary collection titled how do you spell the sound of crickets (Paper Angel Press, August 2022).

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