“No wonder he’s like a boot, hard on the outside, giving shape to a pulp of tenderfoot.”
—Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

His pulp, his tender center, is not the pulsing mass
that sits within his chest. No wonder ribs are called a “cage” –
calcium and collagen might as well be the thin steel wires
that trammel little songbirds. Birds and hearts must be very similar, I think.

No, his pulp is nothing so romantic. It’s in his brain. His pulp
is the way he comes home from work and winds down with more work.
Sometimes we watch television together. But I notice
how our backs are braced against opposite ends of the sofa. I notice
when, after rectifying this, his breath tenses and he allows himself
no more than a cautious smile – afraid after these six years
that he might remember how if felt to kiss me when he was seventeen
or how he used to spill tears into my hair
before he drove three hours back to college,
and worst of all, want to show me what that meant.

His pulp is just his brain. Just thinking, overthinking. Just
distance. I don’t know the distance between his neurons and my heart-fibers.
But it feels like the difference between one end of the sofa and the other.