After Bill began reading to Laura in life station, she had the distinct feeling that the stoic Admiral was trying to tell her his feelings through the prose of the books he read. During their down time in his quarters, when she wasn't overcome with nausea, Laura decided to play the same game. Tory had come across a poetry book called Tell Me by Kim Addonizio, a talented contemporary Caprican poet, who was likely killed in the initial attacks. The ever efficient assistant was quick to give the book to her boss, knowing it was something the Admiral couldn't offer her. Laura thought the poet's raw honesty reflected some of her feelings perfectly.
"It was so nice of you to read to me today, I thought I'd return the favor while we're here together. Tory found this book of poetry. Some of the poems are quite good. I think I'll read some to you now, if you're not busy."
"By all means. We'll call it a Presidential directive."
"Okay, Admiral. This one's called 'Glass.'"
"In every bar there's someone sitting alone and absolutely absorbed
by whatever he's seeing in the glass in front of him,
a glass that looks ordinary, with something clear or dark
inside it, something partially drunk but never completely gone.
Everything's there: all the plans that came to nothing,
the stupid love affairs, and the terrifying ones, the ones were
opened like a hole beneath his feet and he fell in, then lay helpless
while the dirt rained down a little at a time to bury him.
And his friends are there, cracking open six-packs, raising the bottles,
the click of their meeting like the sound of a pool cue
nicking a ball, the wrong ball, that now edges, black and shining,
toward the waiting pocket. But it stops short, and at the bar the
signals for another. Now the relatives are floating up
with their failures, with cancer, with plateloads of guilt
and a little laughter, too, and even beauty-some afternoon from
a lake, a ball game, a book of stories, a few flurries of snow
that thicken and gradually cover the earth until the whole
world's gone white and quiet, until there's hardly a world
at all, no traffic, no money or butchery or sex,
just a blessed peace that seems final but isn't. And finally
the glass that contains and spills this stuff continually
while the drinker hunches before it, while the bartender gathers
up empties, gives back the drinker's own face. Who knows what it
who cares whether or not it was young once, or ever lovely,
who gives a shit about some drunk rising to stagger toward
the bathroom, some man or woman or even lost
angel who recklessly threw it all over-heaven, the ether,
the celestial works-and said, Frak it, I want to be human?
Who believes in angels, anyway? Who has time for anything
but their own pleasures and sorrows, for the few good people
they've managed to gather around them against the uncertainty,
against afternoons of sitting alone in some bar
with a name like the Embers or the Ninth Inning or the Wishing
Forget that loser. Just tell me who's buying, who's paying;
gods but I'm thirsty, and I want to tell you something,
come close I want to whisper it, to pour
the words burning into you, the same words for each one of you,
listen, it's simple, I'm saying it now, while I'm still sober,
while I'm not about to weep bitterly into my own glass,
while you're still here-don't go yet, stay, stay,
give me your shoulder to lean against, steady me, don't let me
I'm so in love with you I can't stand up."
Laura concluded the poem, watching for Bill's response.
"I'll always be here to steady you, Laura; just like you steady me," Bill said, making it clear that he understood Laura's hidden message buried within the poem.
"Thank you, Bill. Do you want to hear another one?"
"Are we one of the terrifying love affairs, Laura?"
"I think we are, Bill."
"Then, perhaps we should hear another one. Maybe Ms. Addonizio has a solution."
"I think she does, Bill. This one's called 'For Desire.'"
"Give me the strongest cheese, the one that stinks best;
and I want the good wine, the swirl in crystal
surrendering the bruised scent of blackberries,
or cherries, the rich spurt in the back
of the throat, the holding it there before swallowing.
Give me the lover who yanks open the door
of his house and presses me to the wall
in the dim hallway, and keeps me there until I'm drenched
and shaking, whose kisses arrive by the boatload
and begin their delicious diaspora
through the cities and small towns of my body.
To hell with the saints, with the martyrs
of my childhood meant to instruct me
in the power of endurance and faith,
to hell with the next world and its pallid angels
swooning and sighing like Victorian girls.
I want this world. I want to walk into
the ocean and feel it trying to drag me along
like I'm nothing but a broken bit of scratched glass,
and I want to resist it. I want to go
staggering and flailing my way
through the bars and back rooms,
through the gleaming hotels and the weedy
lots of abandoned sunflowers and the parks
where dogs are let off their leashes
in spite of the signs, where they sniff each
other and roll together in the grass, I want to
lie down somewhere and suffer for love until
it nearly kills me, and I want to get up again
and put on that little black dress and wait
for you, yes you, to come over here
and get down on your knees and tell me
just how frakking good I look."
This time Laura didn't have to wait for Bill's response. He took her in his arms and kissed her passionately. Then he got down on his knees and said, "You look frakking beautiful, Laura, now and always." That said, he picked her up, carried her to the rack, undressed her gently, undressed himself, and made love to her. They would both suffer for their love, for the problems in the fleet, for her cancer, and it will either kill or nearly kill both of them, but they will take control of their lives until then.
"Are you still terrified?" Bill whispered after they'd made love.
"Me too, but that's what lets me know this is worth it."
They didn't exchange vows of love that night. They were too terrified of what that would mean, but they both felt it, at least subconsciously. They felt both pain and pleasure, and it reminded them they were still alive, and as long as they could experience these feelings, they'd have something to live for, not just die for. They fell asleep, content in their mutual comfort.