Darling, He Says

He gingerly presses his fingertips to the bruises and calls me darling,
Darling, I’m sorry. The same apology; this is how every week starts.
Standing at the sink, he wraps his arms around me, fingers lacing
Together across the tender curve of my hips; thought without language,
And action without thought. The shadows beneath my eyes on Monday
Were livid black-and-blues Saturday night, but the underlying idea,

The essential truth is the same: I am broken. He has his own idea
Of what constitutes recompense, and everywhere in that plan of whispered “darlings,”
And lingering kisses is the intention of stopping. Always, by Monday,
He finds himself sober, and puts trust in apologies and sworn promises. So it starts,
Again and again – Friday night he drinks until his humanity, reason and langauge,
Has left him, and suddenly bruises blossom across my skin like lace,

A wild contrast of elegance and animal. Now, as he pulls loose the lace
Holding back my hair and buries his face in my curls, the idea
Resurfaces; this is my moment of animalism, this instinct, devoid of language,
That commands me: run. These trappings of civility, the sincerity of this remorse is darling,
But nature will out; however tamed the predator, he will go for the kill when the prey starts
To bore him. I wonder every weekend, is this it? Will I live to see Monday,

And each week, like clockwork, like a vicious circle, I’m at the sink on Monday,
My face a harlequin patchwork, scrubbing blood out of my finest lace.
He lays my handiwork down, turns me to face him. His fingers trace a path, starting
At my jawbone, trailing down my bruised throat and chest, and I wonder if he has any idea
Of the hell he puts me through. Somewhere, in my wayward thoughts, he is still my darling,
Somewhere so deep, so embedded, it borders on instinct, shunning reason or language.

Perhaps it is muscle memory; my heart knows how to love him, to ignore the coarse language
And behavior of recent years. It knows that five days out of seven, things will be ok; that Monday
Is a day of redemption, that I will be coddled and cooed at, and called “darling,”
As he pays his penance, so earnestly repentant as always. As he laces
His fingers through my hair (gently, not like last night), the idea
Of not forgiving him can scarcely cross my mind; in the last few years, I have started

To become my own worst enemy – my instincts and my intellect have started
Warring with each other and amongst themselves. I am a smart woman, and in any langauge,
Abuse is abuse; but even as my legs tense to run, my arms embrace him; and even as the idea
Of leaving enters my mind, my heart protests, insisting in its devotion it can wait for Mondays
If it mean continuing to love and be loved by him. His lips skirt my bruises, a cobweb lace
Of broken capillaries — in his hands, I am a fallen woman, a wounded animal, and always (always) his darling.

His body speaks a language of sorrow and longing that I know he’d never admit. On Mondays,
He comes closest to contrition, starts a penance I know he will not fulfill. But here is an edge of lace,
Here are his gentle fingers, here is his idea of apology, here are his lips whispering, “Darling, darling.”