once and a half

Leslie Greentree

copyright ©2003, Leslie Greentree

the first time you undressed me you peeled me like a small cold
girl who had fallen in the snow your hands were gentle and soft
you stroked me like a chickadee who had tumbled from a nest
when I reached out and placed my hand on your ribs slid it up
over the bones I felt your heart race strong and hard felt how
that was for me because of me      I splayed my hand my fingers
on your white skin pressed gently then more firmly until my
handprint was embedded red in your white chest my bones
impressed upon your skin      it didn’t fade until after our
breathing slowed      your heartbeat slowed

sometimes I fell asleep with head pressed to your chest      your
long arms wrapped around me once and a half listening to your
heart like a puppy to an alarm clock wrapped in a towel      your
breath echoing those steady true thumps with soft puffs of air
blowing wisps of hair across my cheek in a matching steady beat

how like me to look for symbolism      to ruin the meaning that
did exist      making it more than it was when in a smaller world
it might have been acceptable      trust me to make a metaphor
from a simple physical response

Notes on the Poem

There is a subtle surprise waiting in Leslie Greentree's tremblingly sweet poem "once and a half". Don't look too hard, though, as you might quite literally not see it. Besides, there is much to just relax and savour in this charming and intimate piece without feeling you need to analyze or attribute specific meaning to it ... the way the narrator accuses herself of doing in trying to capture the special connection she has found. The metaphors the narrator employs ... "you peeled me like a small cold girl who had fallen in the snow" and "you stroked me like a chickadee who had tumbled from a nest" and "listening to your heart like a puppy to an alarm clock wrapped in a towel" all spell adorably bewildered innocence and grateful surrender to protection and sanctuary. But is that all it is, simply and to be taken at face value? Woven into this description are intriguing little gaps and spaces. Scanning over the poem in its entirety, the spaces (once you notice them) seem randomly placed on the page. On closer examination, they do fit suitably into pauses in the words and presumed sentences ... really, into how you would breath to read the poem aloud. The gaps and spaces fit well, in fact, the way the narrator and her beloved clearly do. It's what we don't really see - because how does one see a space, even a space that is wider than typical word spacing or punctuation - that drives home the strongest metaphor of all. Contrast Leslie Greentree's use of spaces in this poem with CD Wright's in the portion of "Rising, Falling, Hovering" that we considered here almost a year ago.

One Reply to “once and a half”

  1. I had to read it three times to really absorb it. It’s so intimate, but precious. Congratulations! xo

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