Marlene Mae’s Mother Turns Seventy-Six and Her Physician Asks If She Is Still Sexually Active

In bed they reach for each other and draw back.
She knows he can’t or almost can’t, he knows she won’t
or will reluctantly. Afraid. She doesn’t want him
to fail. Or feel he has failed. She wants to tell him
you can’t fail me, not this corrugated body. Never
let me go. They talk medications, but she doesn’t want
pulmonary distress, cardiac arrest, what if he died in medias res.
She’d have to wash herself and dress him before calling
911. How could she get his pants back on with her arthritic
thumbs. Love me tender. Love me slow.
How sore she used to get, but still sex was more
tic than earthquake. Sometimes she had wanted to ask
her friends if their sex was tsunami, but old
as she was, she was still shy, one of those timid bodies
who just didn’t get it, the way she never got dirty jokes
in high school. What was she dreaming about then
when everyone else was thinking love me tender,
worrying about the Latin quiz, amo, amas, amat.
She certainly wasn’t listening to the radio,
WHOT, Youngstown, Ohio, the hot spot on your dial.
No, safer conjugations: amamus, amatis, amant.
Amabamus, love, past imperfect, that made sense,
all that static hurt her ears and she fled to another room—
let her sister croon, never let me go.

I guess you could call it that, she says, but more still than active.

LOIS MARIE HARROD’s thirteenth and fourteenth poetry collections, Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis (Cherry Grove Press) and the chapbook How Marlene Mae Longs for Truth (Dancing Girl Press) appeared in 2013. The Only Is won the 2012 Tennessee Chapbook Contest (Poems & Plays), and Brief Term, a collection of poems about teachers and teaching was published by Black Buzzard Press in 2011. Cosmogony won the 2010 Hazel Lipa Chapbook (Iowa State). She is widely published in literary journals and online zines from American Poetry Review to Zone 3. She teaches creative writing at The College of New Jersey. Read her work at Read her contributor spotlight.