a sestina for the monolith that is our marriage
Max Zhang

Four knocks on the doorframe and you open your eyes, exhaling.

My body becomes your bandage: with your head enveloped

by the angular flesh between my chin and my chest, you

find solace in contact. Grian—radiant, solar—lives and dies:

into the abyss, she emerges and returns. We wonder

if she tires. I watch you bend the moral arc: you sleep, but for how long?

You ask me about the prognosis, yet again. The lifespan: how long?

My viscous breath sticking to my throat, the anxiety exhaling,

my motherboard greasing with the familiar. Wonder

how you will take it now. The mental machinery, enveloped

in comfort, is interrupted by the bite of the lip. Honesty dies.

We don’t know, I say, and the corners of your mouth betray you.

There is a pause, and my brain fogs with a memory of you:

perched on the edge of my couch, head tilted and your legs long,

you grimace as your confidence in front of my father dies.

Your words perform rhythmic gymnastics, never exhaling,

their muscles tense as you tell him you love me. Enveloped

in my arms hours later, your indignation is subservient to wonder.

You grope for my hand and the hospital bed re-emerges. Wonder

how we got here. You clutch my wrist and sleep suspends you

once again in its quiet embrace. I, too, am silently enveloped

by a dream state, its grip now manifest in artifacts and prophecies. Long-

sleeve shirts you wore. Longer sleeves you’re going to wear while exhaling

dust mites and blood particles. Bad jokes you told. One thing that dies

before your cerebrum is your politically correct shame. The dream that dies

in your arms when you hold a baby for the first time, its mouth open, wonder

personified into an ellipse and the jerk of the fingers. Me, exhaling,

reminding you that we shall never have our own, our biology our Judas. You,

researching surrogacy. You, now, barely holding your life let alone the long

blanket of another. I conjure the wood and the Earth: you shall be enveloped

and I will not cry, for I do not dignify the end. Your corpse, enveloped

in velvet, shall melt back into the dirt. You know not when. With you dies

arguments and kisses in dark rooms and your mother’s brownie recipe. Long

will I ask myself: with knowledge of future and memory of past, what wonder

is there in present? At your bedside, I am born. Am alive. Am Dead. You

are living and not; yet, your lungs still demand desperately: inhaling, exhaling.

For long nights have quieted us, rendered our bodies mere shells enveloped

by the exhaling organ of time. Until death do us part. That message dies

and I wonder: how did you love? Do you love? Will you love? Me? Us? You?