The Rusty Toque | Issue 11 | Poetry | November 30, 2016
THE POEM IS YOUR WIFE
thinking about the right time to ask you for a little money. She
half-mentions the years you were in school. She waitressed, planted trees, baked,
assembled all-weather tires, gestated children, scoured houses. Getting older,
she listens for air-popping enjambments and bones up on Latin and Scientific
American. From this newly painted alcove, she thinks her furring plumage
might still be preened by someone famous. The hope bridges tax-time humiliations.
She hints: your dependents shouldn’t mean you always get the matching socks.
Of course, she knows it wouldn’t hurt to be gracious: a hundred poems,
more relaxed naked, wait to take her place. Not that she regrets deriding
other poems for being Wifey/ Not Wife Enough. Her staying power is like
a remora’s negative-pressure forehead, its genetic wisdom: join the kill, but
do not re-route the shark. All this time, the damp spectre of independence:
to be scraped off the host, mid-life ab integro like her mother who cries
at the scene of Sabrina, back from Paris. Doesn’t every poem want to be
classic, coy, then [bam!] recognition? Hepburn’s hairdo is size-instructive.
The poem pares inches from her hips, ass, waist, thighs. Compressed
and poised, the new poem is so much better: she doesn’t need you
until you want her.
Circle of volunteers and prisoners.
A photocopied prayer brings us to crisis voltage.
When it’s my turn, a green field hums in a childhood rash around my mouth.
I wander until pain’s girth is cinched, fact-checked, retightened.
We’re on the trail now. Sweet Jesus, I’m free to gallop like the wind.
When we find it, I cry my abandoned picnic! No one can cry more
about less. A cool-down lap, full-length hugs.
In the cafeteria, a name tag pastures on my breast.
Curling shut and hairy, a horse in sheep’s clothing.
Or its opposite, for shame.
Gnawed-off rabbit’s foot.
One of the soul’s extremities, narrative works like a charm.
Oil and pet it, enjoy how softly exotic.
Pass it around when friends are feeling discouraged.
Say phrases like humanity, against all odds.
Wince at the barbed plot structures you omit.
Turn away in teary brightness.
Prisoners dressed in aquatic blues and greens.
Stories arranged just so... Monet! In our painting,
people are stones we smuggle past the snide house.
We skip each other across a toothless lake.
An old expert teaches men who’ve forgotten how to float.
Another group nods off with hands laced behind their heads.
Later a guru rows forth, skimming the epilimnion
for new enthusiasts, over their heads when the wind changed
and the lake felt like fire and blood.
ALISON SMITH lives in Nova Scotia and is the author of two poetry collections, The Wedding House (2001), Six Mats and One Year (2006), as well as the chapbook, Fishwork, Dear (2009), from Gaspereau Press. Her work has recently appeared in Guernica, Fjords Review, Lemon Hound, and Event.