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.
Copyright © 2017 by Jerry Williams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.