The Toast

To God,
Who did not save us.

(after a poem by
Anna Ahkmatova)

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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