A Third Body
A man and a woman sit near each other, and they do not long
at this moment to be older, or younger, nor born
in any other nation, or time, or place.
They are content to be where they are, talking or not-talking.
Their breaths together feed someone whom we do not know.
The man sees the way his fingers move;
he sees her hands close around a book she hands to him.
They obey a third body that they share in common.
They have made a promise to love that body.
Age may come, parting may come, death will come.
A man and a woman sit near each other;
as they breathe they feed someone we do not know,
someone we know of, whom we have never seen.
Oh my, this is perfect. Bill and I were talking about “our relationship” once, and I complained that the phrase was long and inefficient, that we needed a shorter word. Bill said, offhand, “What about ‘Bob’?” and so our third person was born. We celebrate Bob Day every month (15 and a half years tomorrow, incidentally), and when things seem chilly or awkward between us, one of us will check in with the other: “How’s Bob doing?” Of course, we thought it was our own clever invention… as if nobody else had thought of their partnership as a third entity. I’ve heard enough others to know now that we were far from unique, but still, to see it captured so nicely here… I am surprised that I am surprised.
Nancy Coughlin said:
I remember you telling me about Bob! Yeah, this is just like that. I’ve taped a copy of this poem on our kitchen cabinets, and for Henry and me, “the third body” has become a lovely sort of shorthand for what we must protect.
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