You wake before dawn beside someone
you don’t recognize, a dark woman who snores
from her belly as though she were churning inside.
It alarms you at first, though you’re drawn
to the shape of her ears, her neck, the way
her long black hair drapes across the pillow,
and you move over a little, naked and cool
under the covers; you nudge her so you can
observe the other parts of her more closely.
The room is still half dark, so you listen to the tick-
tock of your windup alarm clock, which tells you
this is the bedroom you’ve slept in for years,
every evening winding that silly contraption
she gave you before you were married — so you would
remember her love each time you wound it
and set the alarm. Or else it will run down,
she said, and stop somewhere in the middle of the night,
and you’ll just keep sleeping.
But who is this woman beside you?
Could this be your wife? She’s beautiful, maybe
as lovely as your wife is. And when you get up
and wander through the bedroom, you notice that everything’s
just as you left it, familiar as your own
middle-aged body: the old dog asleep
on his towel in the corner is the same mutt you got
for your children when they were just children; the house
is full of your children’s absence as you roam,
picking up books and notebooks and trinkets
they’ve left behind on their visits. But it’s still too early
to get up. You’re tired. You should go back to bed,
lie down beside this beautiful woman
who will become your wife again
in a few hours when the alarm pulls you
from dreams back into the man you’ve been
for so many years now it’s hard to remember
who you were before you became him.