Russian Ending

Jerry Williams

As in some demented romantic comedy,
my wife and I divided the apartment in half.

She took the living room and I took the bedroom.
Bivouacked and bleeding, we waited for the lawyer

to finish the stipulation so we could sign
the pages and crawl away forever.

I lived in her midst like an alien species.
The exclusion zone sizzled like wet lightning

when I whispered to outsiders on the house phone.
Then came the morning of my departure:

I awoke in civil twilight with my wife standing
over me, looking down into my pallid face.

For half a second, I thought she might strike me,
but she grasped my hand and squeezed it goodbye,

an astonishing tenderness glistening in her eyes,
one final gift in all that pain and murderous détente,

all that wailing and mortification of the flesh.
On the way to the gallows of divorce,

she held a merciful cup of clemency to my lips,
and I drank deeply, I drank so deeply

that I forgot what I’d done to deserve her.

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In Praise of Their Divorce

And when I heard about the divorce of my friends,
I couldn't help but be proud of them,

that man and that woman setting off in different directions,
like pilgrims in a proverb

—him to buy his very own toaster oven, 
her seeking a prescription for sleeping pills.

Let us keep in mind the hidden forces
which had struggled underground for years

to push their way to the surface—and that finally did, 
cracking the crust, moving the plates of earth apart,

releasing the pent-up energy required
for them to rent their own apartments,

for her to join the softball league for single mothers
for him to read George the Giraffe over his speakerphone

at bedtime to the six-year-old.

The bible says, Be fruitful and multiply

but is it not also fruitful to subtract and to divide?
Because if marriage is a kind of womb, 

divorce is the being born again;
alimony is the placenta one of them will eat;

loneliness is the name of the wet-nurse;
regret is the elementary school;

endurance is the graduation.
So do not say that they are splattered like dropped lasagna

or dead in the head-on collision of clichés
or nailed on the cross of their competing narratives.

What is taken apart is not utterly demolished.
It is like a great mysterious egg in Kansas

that has cracked and hatched two big bewildered birds.
It is two spaceships coming out of retirement,

flying away from their dead world,
the burning booster rocket of divorce
                                 falling off behind them, 

the bystanders pointing at the sky and saying, Look.