That’s us: the bruise on my thigh, a Camel
dangling from your beautiful mouth
and this our favorite wedding picture. The vows:
(1) Do I take thee Wife
as wedge against the fear
of sleeping alone
in Southeast Asia?
(2) Do I take thee Husband as solace
for all the girls ever wanted? For the ones kissed
and held by and held.
Twenty years later I am queer as
a happy Monday and you dead from cancer—
lung or liver, I no longer know
anyone to ask and made up the cause, cancer
I say, because the paper said you died at home.
And that there was a child after besides the one before
and nothing to mark the one
we washed away.
I dream of her sometimes, little toothless sack of skin.
with something, nothing, something
But more often
I dream of a house I once lived in,
a certain room, a street, its light. I wake
trying to remember which country,
what language. Not the house
where we lived and its bodies.
How they come and go
late at night, nearly dawn. I am making
crepes and coffee and the group from the bar
can’t believe their luck.
What did we talk about? I am trying to remember
and not trying to remember
how I tried or never tried to love you.
Copyright © 2020 by Janet McAdams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 25, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
I stumbled out of the bushes
to see a deer drink from a pool.
I climbed into the hills above
Berkeley, one step at a time.
I went to Prince Edward Island
where Anne of Green Gables’ face
is on the license plate. A hawk
or a condor flew over our house.
I bought a carton of smokes
at the duty free shop in Anchorage.
Took a seconal in Frankfurt
and woke up in New York.
I bothered my friends with my troubles;
I was never (not) alone. I postponed
pleasure until it was almost gone.
I stared out over the North Sea,
waiting for rain. I wandered
through the red light district in Amsterdam
in the middle of night. I rode on
the back of a motorcycle over a mountain
on Christmas Eve.
I floated on my back in the ocean
at Maui. Stared out the window of
my hotel room over the rooftops of
Florence. Took LSD in Paris and sat
on a bench in the Luxembourg Gardens.
Rented a hotel room in Liverpool
but couldn’t sleep.
I missed my flight from Madrid to Lisbon.
Found an apartment on the Panhandle
and drank tea in Golden Gate Park.
I was caught stealing at Safeway—I could never
return. A Chinese acupuncturist came to
my house when I threw out my back
and couldn’t move. I woke up in an apartment
on 5th Street and listened to the roosters
crow on someone’s roof. I visited her
in her house overlooking the ocean and she
let me in. I put out my hand to touch you,
but the bed was empty.
I wheeled a stroller down an icy New
England street. Waited under a canopy
in the rain, but she never came. I stood
in front of a classroom with paint stains
on my shoes. Called the suicide hotline,
but no one answered.
I dropped everything I was doing
and ran into the street. Drove
a car with faulty transmission until
a fire started under the hood. I ate
Indian food on a balcony in Capetown.
I sang karaoke in a bar in Tibet.
Something I meant to say comes back
to haunt me in my sleep. I turn
the key in the lock and call your
name. Her face appears, out of nowhere,
making a shadow on the page. There’s
only one stone and it weighs a ton.
from Alien Abduction (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015). Copyright © 2015 Lewis Warsh. Used with the permission of the publisher.