My Partner Says He Wants to Buy a Gun, Just in Case
I don’t know how to shoot, don’t fit the profile,
but he does. I know how to watch a pot
until it boils over, how to butcher
a chicken, let the blood drain, carve its spine
from its meat. I know how to hide my weapon,
lodge it behind my teeth for safekeeping.
My love does not use phrases like packing heat.
Once, he wore a rifle, counted hours
in the desert. Once, I stabbed a chisel
clear through my hand, a mishap born of poor
aim. If I say yes, it will not leave a trail
of ashes on my tongue. It will leave no
stain upon my lips. It will leave just him
and it and me, flinching, waiting for the kick.
Choose Your Own
And then, instead, I told him I wanted
to go. Alone, I roamed through our haunted
house, imagined it emptied of me, ran
my hands over the peeled paint, stretched the span
of my arms to shutter the open door.
In the center of the living room floor
I crumpled, sank flat on my back, fastened
to this missing: picture frames we fashioned
from driftwood, thin-paned windows, garden shed
overrun with brambles. And then, instead,
I gave away the fattened cat, crammed six
crowded boxes in the hatchback, ballast
to steady this ship, sold what would not fit
in a studio apartment. I did
not scream or weep or lob another keen
word to lodge in his soft target. No scene
to echo the films of our past. Instead,
I left the keys on the counter, the bed
unmade, drove fast and far into the dusk.
I stuck to country roads, the rustling husks
of late summer replacing the jasmine
scent that was home. I made a companion
of the inky air, fluttered my fingers
through it, cranked the music, brazen singer
to the night, and then, instead, I opted
for silence, for the uninterrupted
dark. In time, I pulled onto the gravel
shoulder to savor the dawn, the dazzle
of one last star before it disappeared
into the horizon, miles from here, gone.
On the Spring Equinox
– March 19, 2020
The bulbs my partner planted in fall bloom
slivers of blue in those ugly buckets
beside the garage door. The dogs nibble
their petals, and I swipe the poison from
their tongues as I belt them into the car.
Absent the afternoon rush, the jagged
diagonal that cuts through town takes just
twenty minutes. The dogs still pant and whine
through the last five. At the park, the paid lot
is empty. The archery range is full
of men in camouflage. I skirt that field,
choose a trail where only a few runners
edge past. The dogs strain at their leashes, dash
toward the bench where the stoners always sit.
Today, there’s no sign of them, though someone’s
left a jar of daffodils in their stead.
Up ahead, children pick up leaves and ask
their mother, what kind? The woman shrugs, rubs
her hand over rough bark, takes her best guess.
At the overlook, I watch the city
dressed in light. I hear no planes overhead.
Haze hovers in the distance, no mountains
in sight. Here, though, it’s clear, the sun brighter
than it’s been in weeks. I tug my short sleeves
so I won’t burn my new, half-inked tattoo
of an eclipse, the moon not yet cratered,
the dark sky wearing freckled skin where stars
should live. I pull the dogs, follow the path
lined with saucer magnolias, their leafless
branches strewn with buds, pink and purple eggs
unhatched. My partner isn’t here to name
the bird that coughs its strange song from the stand
of maples. The dogs whimper, hide behind
my legs. All the water I’ve brought is gone.
I circle back to the car, its exhale
of overheated air. The dogs sleep as
I drive with the windows down all the way
to the house, which is just as I left it,
save one yellow iris that has unfurled
in its ugly bucket, on its short stalk,
burst open as if it couldn’t be stopped.
Photograph of Jennifer Perrine by Justin Huck.