Who did not save us.
(after a poem by
Let’s drink a toast to this dreadful old house, filled with
lost ghosts who come every night to roam around the
downstairs rooms, their limp ghost-hair straying across their
gloomy ghost-eyes. Let’s drink to all the empty rooms
upstairs, meant for an absolute infestation
of tousle-haired, rosy-cheeked children, but housing
instead only walls of books, empty as our eyes
at the breakfast table when the drinks of the night
before have deserted us, leaving us only
each other. Let’s toast the sons your scorned first wife hid
in Italy: your just and deserved punishment
for requiring someone younger, but for which you
never pardoned the new wife. Or let’s toast that faint
stirring in my flattened belly — only once, long
before you were free to claim it. Let’s raise our glass
to the clacking and clanking of your manual
typewriter in the middle of the night, and to
mine, which has been holding its electric tongue for
weeks, except to murmur the names in your frieze of
discarded women whenever I try to write
about something other than the space in the bed
between us, something other than our excuses
for not touching. And let’s not forget to drink to
nineteen-year-old Seraphina in your fiction
writing class who called the house Saturday morning
and asked for you by first name. Let’s drink to the God
who plucked us from our separate lives that last summer
your second wife visited her family in France,
molded us together in His callused palm, clamped
His heavy fingers like bars around us, and laughed.
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© 1980-1986, 2000-2007, 2013, 2017 by Alexandria Constantinova Szeman.
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