Conte, a journal of narrative writing.

Sleeping with Both Eyes Open
She plans his portrait, knowing they will each have fixed positions:
He will sit where they all sit, on the rattan
chair at the glass table with a red Havana Club
ashtray, the night window at his ear,
the bay window on the park gleaming
from his eyes. She tries muting the light
with a sheer, muslin curtain, then pulls
it back quickly, watching the light
streak over the room's cluttered landscape
like a springing leopard. That's better.

She holds his chin in her hand, brushes
the stubble a little with her thumb, smiles to herself,
then turns his head from side to side,
examining his features like the curves
of a pear poised to reveal its choreography.
She steps back, squints and tips
her own head sideways; her rose & amber hair,
pausing in mid air, hangs towards the floor.
She ambles over to an old vinyl record player
that looks like the front end of a Continental
covered with flecks & splatters. She lifts the lid,
turns the gold on/off knob, pushes the play button,
and a scratchy Sinatra record begins to play.
She uncrosses his legs. That's better too.

She looks into his eyes, not beyond them,
not at his cheek or lips, but into them, and her eyes
collect his joys and his fears like foreign stamps,
smearing them into blurred palm trees,
a collage of milky absinthe, and the touch of her hand.
He knows exactly what she is doing
and he never turns away as he turns away,
unwavering, assured that he knows something
she doesn't want to know.

She picks up a tube of paint and says, "Magenta,"
holding it up between them for him to see.
She squeezes it onto the white on the palate,
stirring it pensively with the edge of her knife.

He will sleep with both eyes open,
and they will both breath the oil and the turpentine.
Her hand will exhale the sharpness of his dream,
the stir of love in the corner of his mouth.
They breath deeply as if they are about to dive
beneath a wave, and before you know it,
she is painting.