You seemed happy,
said you were in love—
someone completely unsuitable,
oh, but adorable, sexy, devoted.
Hair trimmed, eyes wide, flush
with wine, joking, gossiping
about friends you’d shown
no interest in a month ago,
you agreed you were better,
if not healed. Dipping fish
into sauce, you improvised for a toddler
the tale of rascal mare Bellina
pinching her rider’s hat to spin it
over the moon; you looked happy.
It didn’t last. I held your hand
in coffee shops; chain smoking,
you paced the parking garage.
I panicked you might throw yourself
from a bridge, under a car—
we both knew men who had done that.
Pills helped. You moved the most
painful photos; new books and CDs
slumped around your chair.
You clipped an ad for L.L. Bean’s
“Bi-Polar” jacket. No dividing
contentment now from chemistry
and, dear, I don’t know my way
out of this poem. Guess why
I love a friend or chose to marry
one man, not another—anyone’s
as good as mine if “mind”
is only noise from calibrated
blips of atoms. Let’s walk
past the river. Don’t look down—
at the marble step, push open
the door to La Casa Bellina.
We’ll swipe bread from the tables, sip
nectar distilled from honey and fog
and stiff the old libation bearers—
naked under black tuxedoes—
throwing silver as we go.
Joyce Peseroff’s fifth book of poems is Know Thyself (Carnegie Mellon). She edited Robert Bly: When Sleepers Awake, The Ploughshares Poetry Reader, and Simply Lasting: Writers on Jane Kenyon. A Distinguished Lecturer at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, she directed the MFA Program for its first four years, and currently blogs on writing and literature at <joycepeseroff.com>.