I always pause for you to laugh
at the joke: how difficult
it must have been for the man
to steer his car while masturbating.
I could walk the route he followed
me down in my sleep. Liberty Street,
the snapped-down day lilies,
the horse chestnuts and cone flowers
toothing up front walks. I find comfort
in naming off the plants I pass.
Veronica. Phlox. Astilbe. Yarrow.
I find comfort in telling the story
over and over. Yesterday I showed
you the out of bloom violets
in your overgrown garden. Knelt
to point out the veins
of them beneath the rough growth
of goldenrod and thistle.
You pulled them up
anyway, new to the gesture and pleased
to work your fingers around the tender stem,
to tug up runs and ribbons.
To bare the plot completely.
Yesterday I tried to tell you—
The man who showed me his dick
as he pulled his gold
sedan up beside me
wasn’t naming me as desirable,
himself as desiring.
He was saying simply: I have the power
to take the goodness
from today, from all other days.
I don’t know, you say,
what violets even look like.
But I remember plucking
a spade-shaped leaf for you.
Snapping its furred stalk
so you could more closely learn
the contours I memorized
in the garden when I was a child.
The radiator rattles like a host of sparrows on a dead limb.
I have forgotten, again, the bread.
When you look away I shake salt into my palm. Lick it clean.
There are two light switches in the kitchen.
Some days the switch on the right turns on the light. Some days the left. Some
small disorders are pacts of estrangement:
the crooked venetian blind, the wilting and half-remembered hum of the pop
song passed back and forth. Low, venereal.
We have nothing to talk about but the weather. We have nothing
to talk about but the way the weather used to be.
October, and the plows kiss the road to sullen sparks. The tulip poplars
break the electricity’s humming thread.
We goblin ourselves with flashlights. We fill the bathtub
with water. We eat the meat. We drink the milk the cream.
The refrigerator warm with the animal smell
of butter. Mold rapidly fingering up edges.
The snowy lawn broken by desire lines in the dark.
In a week the green grass revealed. In a week the mail
still missing, the men with chainsaws just arriving to cut
the broken branches from the ruined rows of trees.
In a week we still can’t speak
of anything but the snow and the Octobers we used to know
in the happy loneliness of childhood, when we buried ourselves
to the neck in brittle leaves.
H.R. Webster holds an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. Her work has recently appeared in Ninth Letter, Hobart, and Devil’s Lake.