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how it’s done

after Sharon Olds’ “Sex Without Love”

If you’re smart, you do it safely—
you will wear the barrier, a second skin
that fits your vulnerable hungers
(and with practice) it will glide

on to you, natural as sweat
and calculated. Serpentine
the scales that you must grow
to tangle limb and teeth into another.

Fingers slither between fingers, laced
in hair and violence and in need, and this
is how the warm bridge builds itself
from wooden ritual and necessary glue.

As in sculpture, muscles swollen
to a stone intensity, and warm rain
weeping from your faces leaving
no mark. Unlike sculpture, muscles

melt, and the embrace is transient;
colossal wreck, the bare and boundless
limb and heaving chest, and sudden
strange departures. Still, no void

where nothing has been taken, nothing
filled, and if you have been listening
and careful, you’ll have worn your armor
and can rest, untouchable. Amused.

Do you believe me broken? Bitter? Vandalized?
Ask yourself, then, what is lost in lieu of risk.


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SP Mulroy
SP Mulroy is a nationally recognized writer and performer, and an award winning professor. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a 2013 Lambda Literary Fellow, a 2017 Kurt Brown Prize Winner, and 2017-2018 Writer-in-Residence at The Kerouac Project.