We met, we fell in bed, we got two cats.
All fall we fucked with noisy desperation.
Our colors changed. We shed our leaves. We snowed
and salted all the roads. Then the birds left,
and what’s-his-name came back and now you’re gone,
leaving only the cats and a fresh cut
on the roof of my mouth from the nail of your big toe
to remind me you were ever here at all.
Try driving twenty hours in a truck,
your life a sprawl of boxes behind you,
only a few of them light. Add bad luck:
the radio doesn’t work; the cat with whom
you share the cab decides, in hour one,
to piss in her cage (she is, we might assume,
as scared as you); and — since these streaks run
in threes — it starts to rain. Now, with a mere
thousand miles to go, with the vague sun
rising in your eyes, grip the wheel and steer.
"Well that beats all, doesn’t it?" God said,
gazing across the field at a knot of men
arguing outside the tent. He seemed
tired; evening had fallen and many remained
to be interviewed. "Uh, yessir, it sure does,"
I stammered, handing him my application
and standing by the folding metal chair
that faced his own. "So, Mister . . . Brock—" A cry
cut him off there, and he rose to his feet,
flustered. One man lay prostrate on the ground;
the others darted back inside the tent.
A gust of wind disturbed God’s hair, his robe.
I cringed, expecting thunder. Minutes passed.
"Your application," he resumed, "I thought—
I thought I set it here when I stood up."
But there was nothing within a hundred yards
save us, two chairs, and sun-baked earth. He checked
his pockets—nothing. Then he turned to me,
chagrined but not apologetic, smiled,
and said: "I guess you’ll have to come on back
some other time." I thanked him and set out,
sad but relieved, toward the swaying trees,
now black against the darkening plain of sky.
"Good luck," he called to me. As I glanced back,
I saw a woman emerge from the tent, sidestep
the body, and begin the trudge toward God,
pale application flapping in her hands.
The Day Before
The patient Eva, pink with shame and pride,
Became, at last, his blushing bride.
For their brief honeymoon, they lied and lied
As Eva laughed and Adolf cried.
As she descends from the tasseled palanquin
her skirts catch, a long thigh flashes
like a tusk
in the men’s dark eyes, white gashes.
She does not know or care what they have seen.
The Last Dinner
The couples are gathered around the table,
talking between bites and drinking wine.
Forks and knives are clinking against plates,
and spirits are high and funny stories are told,
and someone always seems to be laughing
the easy laughter of friends together, and I,
too, am laughing and happy and a little drunk.
And then I leave the table and walk down the hall
and as soon as I close the door the laughter
becomes muted, distant.
I turn the faucet on
to hear the water run.
Leaning toward the mirror,
staring into my own eyes,
I see myself three times:
the face growing from my neck
is large and unbearably sad;
the tiny faces caught
in each pupil are blank
and eyeless. They float
like specimens in jars.
Turning off the water, opening the door,
I return to the table of my friends. I remain quiet
until someone says something clever and I laugh again
and someone else says something even funnier,
and we’re on a roll now, we’re gathering threads
from earlier conversations and weaving them in,
weaving the whole evening into one tight fabric,
and for a few graceful moments we are gaining on time,
all of us laughing and blinking tears from our eyes.
Andrea del Sarto
Makes Love to His Wife
as the Oils Dry on His Latest Portrait
of Her as the Holy Virgin & Afterwards
He Is Visited by Her First Husband
As if some brush were stroking her with white,
a thin sweat broke across her chest and fed
the field of blood-red blossoms on her throat
and spread, till all her flesh reflected light,
like the Arno in the sun, till sharp notes bled
unbidden from her lips, her gaze remote —
Deflowered again. My Virgin and my life
lies as she must have lain in Carlo’s bed.
I shouldn’t fret: he’s dead and cannot gloat.
Yet still I hear him whisper, That’s my wife,