Inland, just west of Atlantic City,
old motels stand hunched
as if ashamed, people
inside propping them up. No one
told me about the architecture
of sorrow, how expensive
it is to build, how long it takes
to tear down. East as far as you
can go here in Jersey is the ocean
in which swimming
sometimes look the same.
Marriage (intergenerational wounds)
A man is bending his wife; he is bending her
around something she has bent herself around all her life.
He learned to do it well,
but today, to his own surprise, he admits
he saw a good knife
the day before when they were at the flea market.
He says it is like one his uncle gave him as a boy,
and that, if she likes, he will get this knife—
one with a curved tip—and skin her
like she’s never been skinned.
Just keep bending me, she says.
Marriage (wood & dog)
It’s getting close to chopping time,
but neither of them want to do it anymore.
He’s tired; she doesn’t think it’s her job.
Both of them want to get lost in separate woods.
Up the hill where the dog likes to go,
there’s a wildcat bulldozer that’s been abandoned.
They have separate fantasies about starting
it up—things they are each ashamed of
and can’t imagine sharing.
They’ve begun going up there alone
to pray, kneeling in front of it like a god
they wish could speak, she to get advice, him to confess.
All around them, the woods whisper
wishing the people
would chop what needs to be chopped,
stack what they can.
When the tree with two trunks split that spring,
the roots giving way in the overburdened earth
the upright one looked younger, more vulnerable,
and we waited to see if the other half would die.
He cut the dead branches. I packed new soil
in a mound between the trunks planting
perennials—cone flower, bee balm, verbena.
We watered and stood blinking on the street
wondering whether this was an accusation.