I go off on tangents, my wife says,
But I prefer to call them lateral
Thinking in action. How else would
I have remembered the pork chops
Were left in the car if not for our
Starveling child making BLTs
For lunch? Sure, there’s something
To the family motto — When a task
Is once begun / Never leave it ’til
It’s done — but now here’s the cat
Tossing me come-hither looks,
Rubbing her cheek and ear against
The door frame. How essential
To run fingers through the fur, over
The arching back and up the victory
Column of the tail! My wife says
I’ve been on tangents ever since
I came out of the womb. I say
Being born was the tangent. I’ve
Made a life trying to get back
To what I was doing before that.
The mosquitoes of Rome find me
Delicious, as I find Roman cuisine.
I woke and saw the Big Dipper
On my forehead and cheeks, handle
Bent and a hole in the kettle.
I tossed my room hunting that
Mammone, bloated and punch drunk
On authentic American blood:
No trace but the grim constel-
Lation spanning my face. I told
A student I’d been brawling in
Bukowski’s Bar. He didn’t believe me
Even after I socked him on the arm.
THE ART HISTORIAN’S REVENGE
I ought to become a talk-show host.
I think I’d be good. It took only five
Minutes for the art historian in the
Seat next to mine to spill her guts.
She said the last time she’d been
To the Vatican, her husband took
Her by the hand on a bench in the
Cortile della Pigna and proposed
Divorce — this after a day of her
Playing tour guide and leading him
From beautiful thing to beautiful
Thing, and finally to Beauty itself,
Only to exit the tacky gift shop
Of Truth. Soon she’d revenge herself
Twice over: on the papacy with a
Prestigious grant, and on her ex
With a fiancé, due to arrive three
Weeks from now. I took her card.
I had mine printed years ago, but
Forgot them as usual. I never expect
To meet anybody, I said.
Of the things we still do together in bed
I don’t sing. Let the muse close her legs
And recall for me the songs we sang
As newlyweds long ago — “Breaking Up
Is Hard…” (kamma kamma) and “When Will I
Be Loved?” — working together side by side
Fumbling our way between unison and
Harmony, the end of solos and the start of
Sweet polyphony. There’s no sharp line
Dividing when we used to sing in bed and
When we stopped, no terminus post quem
Like 9/11 and waking up next day
To a changed world. I think it took years.
The singing grew ever sparser until it
Was a thing living only in past tenses.
Perhaps it’s time to revisit the past,
A matter of lying down, caressing her
Shoulder, softly, bravely striking up
An old tune in the hope of reclaiming
The urgent, innocent why of it all.
(Author photo by Kaitlin Curley Anders)