It’s never enough that I wash the dishes after you’ve made a huge dinner the night before.
Not to me. Next day I soap the plates and pans and fear you’ve silently noted the pot
of my middle-aged belly and, with effort, convince yourself each morning not to leave.
I work harder for a spell before I fall short again. I log each deficit in the ledger of
my mind, make a notch in the wall of this place where I hole up. Some days the door
cracks open, a shaft of light falls upon the hash-marked stone. Your face in the opening,
beaming with delight. I walk outside, blinking at the dazzle. Some days it’s too bright.
I try to stay as long as I can in the sun. Your warmth seeps into my bones. In the kitchen,
what you make for me tastes so good. I say thank you and try to eat until I’m full again.
I lean back in my chair. I think of that cold lair. I say another thank you. It’s not enough.
That scamp says don’t skimp
or tamp down desire, go limp
with lack. She grabs for more,
spoons on the cheese topping from the casserole
sneaks a scootch more hooch
offers to clear the dishes, only to mooch
the pulled meat, gravy, tomato pulp and oil
left on each plate. The spoils
go to her whose appetite
never flags for what is by no right
hers. She gobbles, she slurps
belly round with unburped burps
still hungry, still wanting, unashamed
a thief and a blessing, for remaining unnamed
There once was a mad toupéed Cheeto
who demurred ever wearing a Speedo
whose male rights he’d indulge
but was shy re: his bulge
and who vastly overestimated his veto
The gemlike liquids in the liquor cabinet
quiver when we make love – sometimes buzzed
or in the morning or the middle of the day.
We upset the cat, who removes himself in a huff
to the other room to nap. He ambles back in late
in the evening and resettles himself on our feet.
We run four miles in the dusk and then sit naked
talking at the table. We eat dinner at ten o’clock.
We make spicy Indian food. We shower with the door
ajar. We take a nine-day vacation to Spain and sit
all day reading on the beach. Each night before I fall
asleep, I listen to the rhythm of your heart under my ear.
I memorize its one-two, one-two, one-two, one-two,
finding that pitter-patter every day more deeply dear
because it is the only heart of ours I’ll ever hear.
Sometimes, when I have morning breath,
I cover my mouth with the sheet like a niqab.
And then the scent of your underarms when you
pull me close to your chest and fold me in –
it is a mystery for which I have no word.
These are whiffs of time elapsed, and thus
of death – mysteries of the body. When I
have no words, oddly I start to make too many.
I thrust them into the column of this poem,
each line ending in the same place each time,
the stern border forming, like glass surrounding
pickles in a jar, each thing separate, but steeped
in the same brisk brine. As we are. When we kiss,
our outside coverings pressing together, our souls,
striving to burst through faces, press closer still.
It does not work. Still, we try. This is why our teeth
clack – why, even as I read the length of your column,
its meaning escapes me, why your voice becomes
another voice in that other place. When I come to,
the sun has moved, its shadows subtly shifted, too.
Run the tape and
fetch the chains
we stay in place
our yards don’t stretch
the slack it droops
between their hands
we see it sag
“it didn’t make”
they say with rue
by smiling lips
but when it’s time
to chart their run
the chains are taut
“first down,” they cry
the crowd goes wild
who stays up there
inside that box
where tapes are viewed
behind the glass
whose glare is mute
and blinds us all
with Midas’s curse
with bread and show
and forty acres
and birth and mirth
and house and hearse
I’ll sneak in the texts that I really want to teach.
That will change, no matter what I tell you today
my passions are. You’ll check my syllabi against
departmental norms and think I’m toeing the line.
You’ll think. You’ll read my occasional poems
incidentally, from links you happen across, and
wonder if this poet is actually the woman you work with.
You’ll say with a meaningful look, “But she’s so quiet.”
You will try to ask me to lunch again and again, show up
at my office door at eleven, noon, and one, find it opaque
and mute, while I breathe so quietly behind it, my sandwich
paper stilled in my hand, that you won’t know I’m even there.
I won’t pretend I’ve read a book I haven’t, as a matter
of principle. Students will like me because I sympathize.
Because I’m easy. Because I make it interesting. You’ll
despair. Don’t hire me. Send me out as a buoy,
warning the others. I’ll bob, dodge, float, my size,
color, and bell tolling my shallows