God goes out for whiskey Friday night,
Staggers back Monday morning
Empty-handed, no explanation.
After three nights of not sleeping,
Three nights of listening for
His footsteps, His mules sliding
Deftly under my bed, I stand
At the stove, giving him my back,
Wearing the same tight, tacky dress, same slip,
Same seamed stockings I’d put on before He left.
He leans on the kitchen table, waiting
For me to make him His coffee.
I watch the water boil,
Refuse to turn around,
Wonder how to leave Him.
Woman, He slurs, when have I ever done
What you wanted me to do?
Copyright © 2016 by Robin Coste Lewis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 5, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
“I wrote this poem in an attempt to explore heartbreak within the context of devotion, mysogyny, heteronormativity. How tragic I find our policed desires. I have often wondered who the beloved truly is, one’s lover or God Herself? Is the lover God’s face in drag—as so many religions suggest? And if so, how can we treat God so poorly, so cowardly? Moreover, how can God treat us with the same tired cowardice? That we run from love is no surprise. That we do so, even as we know that, quite possibly, it might be our only door is existential suicide. What quality of self can remain? And how does one reconcile all these mirrors? How can we create a place where love is not molested by history?
—Robin Coste Lewis