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.
About this Poem
“I think most poets are obsessed with memory and I am no exception. I have moved around a great deal in my life, and I dream often about the houses and rooms of places where I once lived. When I dream about those pasts, it’s as if they are ongoing, simultaneous with the life I live now, the place I now inhabit, spatially and temporally. The dreams are charged with both loss and relief, offering distillations of memory I can’t fully trust. I am left wondering what finally matters more, the past or the story we construct about the past.”
Date Published: 2020-11-25
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/lie-0