“Here’s a rough question: when
Do I take the ring off?” My friend,
The expert, mishears me. “Use
Some olive oil to slip it past
The knuckle.” But then: “You
Know, it really is the end
Of your marriage…” the grand
Divorce! Death the dark stranger
In her email… he understands her.
He knows who she really is inside—
His the final secret of her heart.
Don’t we all need to move on? Don’t
We need to learn and change and grow?
Every modern cliche, the rattlesnake’s
Milk… even Apple weighs in:
”Jen Kollmer has stopped sharing
Her location with you.” That country
From which no traveler is tracked…
The alert presents our parody
Reduced to bathos, a freshman spat;
I spy her at distance, across the quad,
Laughing with some water-polo captain…
But still: was there ever just one side?
Each impatience, each small and careless
Cruelty, each distance or withdrawal—
Hot needles in my foot. And never did
My hand wander, but perhaps mine eye;
“Talk to the ring, bitch,” but did
I mean it? The suitcase she never would
Have been, yet must inexorably become—
The shoulder now loosed of that strap—
The pain of desire, past imagining—
The facts in the case: we fled the pest
To high altitude, liked it, and stayed.
But who liked it? I liked it… oxygen…
The right ventricle pulls it from the lung.
Sit down when you think about that.
Like: what in the hell was I thinking?
Any weathered man, at middle age,
Has thoughts too heavy for just his feet.
My stable knees, when first she called
With the diagnosis, declined to hold—
Luckily there was a wall—but really
The story is banal. We were nothing special.
The human condition is always lethal.
Every marriage has its border, every
Intimacy its fence; that line, at first
Abstract, carves itself in dry concrete—
Ground without figure; the object drawn
In the negative space of its absence—
Death is no victory, death is no defeat.
That arc, intersecting the axis,
Reveals the crux of the finished play,
Rewrites each scene, from the first date—
The curtain always rises on a comedy,
The ending always rips out your skull.
Health to the widowers! To the widows!
The others existed. Only we survived.
The author is an actor. The audience is real.
The movie is always better than the truth.
The poet is always making the sale,
Starting with life and spitting out copy.
An imperfect man, I present you with
An imperfect woman, finished in glass;
An imperfect marriage, ground and polished
To the product I will always wish it had been.