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Men and women should be gentler with one another;
what was it my godmother used to say? Painfully tender.

Men and women should arrive and depart together
and without flourish or flattery—just some small banter.

These aren’t the gentlefolk you might remember
hearing of I’m describing; these aren’t your ancestors.

Men and women in love should appear sister and brother
as much or more than they do ruthless lovers,

flashy, self-conscious, dressed as if by the perfumer,
unwilling to forgive, and in fact, consumed by the anger

that in certain circles passes as love’s necessary other.
It’s not that, being brutalized, one simply shouldn’t bother

to return what has been euphemistically termed the favor,
but to say, simply, always remember the heart of your lover

beating full of hope and sorrow, and that life’s a river
flowing in both directions, it would seem—forever.

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