—Baron Wormser, former Poet Laureate of Maine
|Click Cover for Amazon|
The Missing Wife
Wife and dog missing.
Reward for the dog.
—bumper sticker on a pickup truck
The wife and the dog planned their escape
months in advance, laid up biscuits and bones,
waited for the careless moment when he'd forget
to latch the gate, then hightailed it.
They took shelter in the forest, camouflaged
the scent of their trail with leaves.
Free of him at last,
they peed with relief on a tree.
Time passed. They came and went as they pleased,
chased sticks when they felt like chasing sticks,
dug holes in what they came to regard
as their own backyard. They unlearned
how to roll over and play dead.
In spring the dog wandered off in pursuit
of a rabbit. Collared by a hunter and returned
to the master for $25, he lives
on a tight leash now. He sleeps
on the wife's side of the bed,
whimpering, pressing his snout
into her pillow, breathing the scent
of her hair.
And the wife? She's moved deep into the heart
of the forest. She walks
on all fours, fetches for no man, performs
no tricks. She is content. Only sometimes
she gets lonely, remembers how he would nuzzle
her cheek and comfort her when she twitched
and thrashed in her sleep.
—first published in Two Rivers Review
—featured on Verse Daily 3.1.2003
My Husband Discovers Poetry
Because my husband would not read my poems,
I wrote one about how I did not love him.
In lines of strict iambic pentameter,
I detailed his coldness, his lack of humor.
It felt good to do this.
Stanza by stanza, I grew bolder and bolder.
Towards the end, struck by inspiration,
I wrote about my old boyfriend,
a boy I had not loved enough to marry
but who could make me laugh and laugh.
I wrote about a night years after we parted
when my husband's coldness drove me from the house
and back to my old boyfriend.
I even included the name of a seedy motel
well-known for hosting quickies.
I have a talent for verisimilitude.
In sensuous images, I described
how my boyfriend and I stripped off our clothes,
got into bed, and kissed and kissed,
then spent half the night telling jokes,
many of them about my husband.
I left the ending deliberately ambiguous,
then hid the poem away in an old trunk in the basement.
You know how this story ends,
how my husband one day loses something,
goes into the basement, and rummages through the old trunk,
how he uncovers the hidden poem
and sits down to read it.
But do you hear the strange sounds
that floated up the stairs that day,
the sounds of an animal, its paw caught
in one of those traps with teeth of steel?
Do you see the wounded creature
at the bottom of the stairs,
his shoulders hunched over and shaking,
fist in his mouth and choking back sobs?
It was my husband paying tribute to my art.
—first published in Beloit Poetry Journal
—featured on Poetry Daily 9.18.1998
—featured on The Writer's Almanac 3.2.1999 and 8.3.2003