Maybe now that Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
has a biopic on Netflix, it’s easier to date
a woman who likes talking about nuns.
Ten years ago it was as unlikely
as seeing a nun at a drag show, so when Victoria
responded to my nun-themed Craig’s List W4W,
I was quick—but not too quick—to suggest
a coffee date. And, because bonding
with lesbians over nun fantasies
has proven to be one of my superpowers,
she agreed to extend our date to a bowling alley
where we met my colleagues to celebrate
the semester’s end—she and I pretending to be
old college friends and not 90% strangers.
She spent the night, alas, as a nun might:
in the guest bed. She drove home
before breakfast. Not good signs, but then
she suggested we bake devil’s food cake,
a recipe invented slightly before the hesitation waltz,
circa 1905. She wanted it to turn out right,
you know? That you know made a handbag
of me and I wanted to be heavy
with whatever she needed carried—
that wasn’t how it went.
Victoria, if you read this, I still listen to The Knife
and dream about nun-orgies.
Let’s dance the hesitation waltz,
let its bastardized moves squeeze us
close as a hobble skirt might—the fashion craze
when this ridiculous waltz gained fame,
its variations so painful it fell from favor
as did those skirts,
tight and tubular as sausage casing.
I’ve wanted so many things
since we parted ways, Victoria. Rarely you,
a woman who loved Joey Lawrence
and 90s TV, who wanted to move to Spain.
I know little else. Your heart-shaped face
and curly hair faded now—time snubs us both,
flouts every trend in fashion,
dancing, and cakes. It glides over our skin
like a lusty nun’s hot tongue
over her friend’s nipple, their habits peeling
from them like loosed shadows:
they make up the steps, they say nothing,
their bodies vespers vibrating the dusk.
The air smells soft today, and of the past,
redbuds dispersing their ruby secrets,
myself among them. I kept the body
taut with thirst so that it thrived without.
Then this new man, suspect as always, showed
up, glinting like he knew which songs I like.
What I know of him fits within my palms:
his twin scars but not their cause. His lamb’s wool
voice and canvas shoes. A lavender net.
What I know of love fits inside my mouth.
The air smells soft today, and of the past.
I robe myself in gray and green.
Some come to us in the perfection
of their frailty, some leave us by it.
Amie Whittemore is the author of the poetry collection Glass Harvest (Autumn House Press) and co-founder of the Charlottesville Reading Series in Virginia. Her poems have won multiple awards, including a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, and have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Sycamore Review, Smartish Pace, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere. She teaches English at Middle Tennessee State University.