After He's Decided to Leave

When the bottle of hot sauce shattered in the kitchen
he stood in the doorframe, shook his head at the mess.

Not worried if I was injured,
mostly curious at what else it was I’d broken.

You are so clumsy with the things you hold,
he never said.

The red stain on my chest bloomed pungent,
soaked any apology.

I used his shirt, the one I slept in,
to wipe the counter and pale-colored kitchen floor.

That night and the next for a straight week
as he prepared boxes to leave

I hunched and scrubbed the tiles. Couldn’t rid myself
of the things that I’d sullied, of the look he left behind.

More by Elizabeth Acevedo

Ode to the Head Nod

the slight angling up of the forehead
neck extension                        quick jut of chin

meeting the strangers’ eyes
a gilded curtsy to the sunfill in another

in yourself      tithe of respect
in an early version the copy editor deleted

the word “head” from the title
the copy editor says              it’s implied

the copy editor means well
the copy editor means

she is only fluent in one language of gestures
i do not explain                     i feel sad for her

limited understanding of greetings              & maybe
this is why my acknowledgements are so long;

didn’t we learn this early?
            to look at white spaces

            & find the color       
            thank god o thank god for

                                                             you               
                                                                                        are here.

Related Poems

Waiting for Happiness

Dog knows when friend will come home
because each hour friend’s smell pales,
air paring down the good smell
with its little diamond. It means I miss you
O I miss you, how hard it is to wait
for my happiness, and how good when
it arrives. Here we are in our bodies,
ripe as avocados, softer, brightening
with latencies like a hot, blue core
of electricity: our ankles knotted to our
calves by a thread, womb sparking
with watermelon seeds we swallowed
as children, the heart again badly hurt, trying
and failing. But it is almost five says
the dog. It is almost five.