The Embrace: Poetry by Rose Auslander

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The Embrace

So pale, he’s almost
green, a bit yellow,

slightly iridescent—
in that second before

he touches you, you wish
you could make him

pretty again.  Even
through his overcoat

you’ll feel his bones.
He mentions he’s been ill.

No details.  But you
don’t shrink

because you think he has
a cold. You flinch,

then make yourself
wrap your arms around him

yes, wrap your arms around
him, because years ago you saw

beautiful young men die, men
who looked like he does now—

you know no one gets it
like this,

breathing
evaporated cries

trickling from
bathhouses long since

torn down,
arch of back to arch

of feet, limb
to limb, to

hospital bed, the unnamed
breeding wildly

in the blood.

—Rose Auslander


Rose Auslander recently wrote “The Embrace” in remembrance of close friends lost to AIDS in the 1980s, when she was a modern dancer in New York City. Her book Wild Water Child won the 2016 Bass River Press Poetry Contest; her chapbooks include Folding Water, Hints, and The Dolphin in the Gowanus; and look for her poems in Tupelo Quarterly (TQ9) and the Berkeley Poetry Review (#48). Rose has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has read her poems on NPR. She is Poetry Editor of Folded Word Press, and earned her MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson.