Looking back, does no good to ask
myself How could you not see that?
The irony: his name was Tom.
Thin dude. Stomach like a drum.
He talked dirty and confessed
his daily struggle with depression,
then revealed another foible:
sneaking peeks, at night, in people’s
windows. Which was worse, his crime
of peeping or to sleep with him?
I shut my eyes. I stroked his frail
spine. It felt like reading braille.
We both were blind. And guilty of
wanting love; wanting; love.
Money’s tight. I only spend time
alone in my cheap sublet studio,
listening to a mixed tape he made,
turning it over and over, replaying...
Before our first real gig, we split
a pitcher. Happy hour. Gathering gear
(keyboard, guitar, amps, cables wedged
behind heavy collapsible risers) slack-
limbed, laughing, we couldn’t dislodge
a thing. How can we get this shit out?
I shouted, climbing the pile of equipment.
Slipped and fell. Could have broken my
neck if he hadn’t caught me. Partial to
what? might have been his remark if he
could have seen the partial lunar eclipse
tonight, here, with me. He’s missing
a second phenomenon now: the slats
of the window blind form a grand staff
where the full moon floats like a perfect
whole note drawn between parallel lines.
A dog’s brain has no capacity
for inhibition because its frontal lobe
is too small, you told me. See —
You gestured toward your yellow Lab
who kept pawing my lap, not afraid
to show desire, pleading for any scrap.
Just like before, you’d made
dinner: spaghetti, salad, fresh bread.
The usual. Then you played
your latest songs. We drank a red,
dry, Italian vintage. You refilled
my glass readily but you couldn’t read
the signals: how I was willing,
if not exactly able, to guzzle the sound
of your amplified voice. Spilling
my real thoughts, as I spun around
in your leather swivel chair, rather
than saying I loved the music — no, my mind
couldn’t make my mouth speak. Bothered,
hot in my knit-wool burgundy dress,
I watched your same old trick: a thin wafer
or a table-water cracker placed
on the dog’s tongue after you told him Sit.
You intoned Body of Christ and yes,
I laughed as the silly creature ate it.
He lay between us while we watched
Woody Allen movies. Look at your feet,
you said. You can tell how much
he sheds. My stockings had grown beards,
sprouted whitish-yellow tufts.
You apologized because they appeared
to be stuck like tiny thorns throughout
my dress, too. I felt your breath on my ears
as you stood behind me holding my coat.
This dress fits you well, you said. Stay.
Lie down. Behave. That’s what
you told the dog. I wanted you to say
those things to me, not drive me home.
Not loan me a new translation of Dante.
Not take another walk along the same
path after Mass, going nowhere
every Sunday, discussing another poem.
I had to wash my clothes a lot before
they finally shed that damn dog’s hair.
I was wearing
my new shoes, red
leather, not caring
if they got wet as I waded
through waves by the shore.
The ocean seethed
through an open door.
We barely breathed
while the tide rolled in like fog.
He followed at my heels,
a faithful dog.
Held, I could feel
his tell-tale swell. My grip
tightened. His zipper
Just my luck.
THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY
That day I passed by the cafe he was working
and ran out to the sidewalk shouting my name
and I turned not knowing who had called, but then
so happy to see him so happy to see me.
He ran out to the sidewalk, shouting. My name
meant nothing without his. He proposed,
so happy. To see him so happy to see me
say yes was almost more joy than I could take.
I meant it, nothing without him. He proposed
post-coitus. We were young, in love. What else was there
to say? Yes. More. Joyful, I thought I could take
anything. Constant traveling. Absences. Everything,
post-coitus, forgiven. In young love, what else is there
except acceptance? Crazy friends. Drinking. Drugs.
Anywhere he traveled, his absence filled everything
in our apartment. His drums and guitars. Waiting. Mute.
Except... I accepted friends, crazy drinking, drugs,
a secret vial of Prozac stashed inside the top drawer.
In our apartment, all his instruments mutely waited
while I played my piano — a gift from him.
Prozac for the vile inside. Top-secret stash. A drawer,
a woodworker, he sketched and then built a bench
for my piano — one of many gifts from him. We played,
we practiced, we listened to so much music...
A worker. A sketch. The wooden bench he built
became symbolic after he moved out. Like every
piece of music I listened to or practiced. So much
hurt. I lost myself with him. He was lost. Who he used to be
became a symbol. I moved out, after. Every
corner I turned not knowing if he would call. But by then
he was hurt, lost within his mind. Lost, who used to be
that boy working in the cafe where I passed by.
A COLLEGE STUDENT CONFESSES
I met your husband at the faculty party. I thought he was single.
He was handsome. Charming. He flirted. No ring.
But when asked why he’d relocated, he answered my wife.
So of course I dismissed him.
Honestly, never gave him another thought
until he drove me home one night and we lingered,
singing along with the radio, the engine idling.
How do I explain? There was a moment --
his eyes, his voice suggested --
I said to myself No…
Then I said to myself Why not?
His scent — like clean laundry (maybe you
don’t even notice anymore) — intoxicated me.
Understand: I’d never gotten that kind of attention from any man.
I invited him in.
* * *
I’d get turned on even before the foreplay.
He was methodical. Meticulous.
Tugging loose my ponytail.
Deftly, with one hand, unhooking
either back- or front-close bras.
Peeling away my tightest jeans, chuckling.
Our motions unmoored the bed, pillows
pushed overboard. Or we made it
only as far as the living room,
contortionists on the love seat. Or
he pressed me against the doorjamb,
or laid me across the kitchen table.
We always held each other a little while,
stroking skin and continuing to kiss (I’m sorry
for telling you this) before he got up
to throw away the condom.
Toilet flushing. Tremors, my legs
twitching as I watched him get dressed.
* * *
Once, he let himself fall asleep.
Splayed on top of me,
his breathing stertorous.
His stubbled cheek made my neck itch.
Beneath his warm weight, I shifted
and saw his face transformed:
eyes closed, frowning, older.
I wondered if he was thinking about you.
* * *
He was with me the night you went into labor.
I never felt jealous.
Envious, a little.
Nothing growing inside me except guilt.
I hoped it would be a girl. I said to myself
Maybe then he’ll change his ways.
Believe me. As much as I wanted him,
I wanted him, for your sake, to change.
Or for my sake.
Or for his own.
Header art by T. Guzzio. Original image from The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights
CONNECT WITH LISA:
Lisa DeSiro is both a writer and a pianist. These six poems are from her in-progress chapbook, Wanting Love, a collection of various women’s perspectives on dating and relationships. Other poems of hers have appeared in journals such as Commonthought, Mezzo Cammin, and Sixfold, and in the anthology Thirty Days: The Best of the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project’s First Year. She was a finalist in the 2015 Mass Poetry on the T contest, and won second prize in the 2013 Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition (sonnet category). She frequently collaborates with composers, providing texts to be set for singing, and her words have thus been shared with audiences throughout the United States. Along with her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, she has degrees from Binghamton University, Boston Conservatory, and Longy School of Music. Prior to her current employment as Production & Editorial Assistant for C.P.E. Bach: The Complete Works, she earned her living as a freelance musician. Learn more about her at https://thepoetpianist.wordpress.com/.
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