Dzvinia Orlowsky is a founding editor of Four Way Books. Her poetry collections, all from Carnegie Mellon University Press, include A Handful of Bees (1994), Edge of House (1999), and the forthcoming Except for One Obscene Brushstroke.
You weren't going to say this or suggest that -
his, or yours.
What you meant to say was right on
about when, mostly about how.
You always knew you wouldn't quite know where it would go
if he said it first,
or worst, only implied the other
while you were thinking exactly the opposite.
And what if he said, say it again, saying it again
and you couldn't remember what you said,
or how you said it.
You hadn't planned on it coming to this
before it came to that,
making sure you're still alone in the room.
You were only going to ask.
You were only going to call to ask.
Then quickly -
mouth slowly working
the air around the receiver,
you were going to lie.
For $12.98 it seemed worth it,
a child's black office
You believed the advertisement with the girl
pretending earnest conversation
You sent your money in.
The phone arrived. Rang.
You didn't walk over to answer it because
you bought it specifically
not to have to answer it.
For a moment, you were happy - you were
the good good mother who kept
her children home,
although it did bother you
how something faceless
could take on a voice,
address your child, unscrupulously,
by his or her first name.
But this wasn't your toy,
it wasn't some squeak
that called you.
It'll come back, the brown moth and its fur-
powdered miniscule prick and huge mirror eyes
some night when it's too hot for common sense
and not quite hot enough for a favorite fantasy
to root and climb its delicate, directional vine.
It'll come back, too, the large doll whose hair I snipped,
the cardboard doll with my head, a stiff photograph
of my face, dressed in a red, blossoming recital dress.
It'll come back and call me old, then hang up.
It'll stand with a drink in one hand and water in the other
and tap its foot until I remember its name. I won't,
the way I can't remember anyone's name, or where
I left what, signed or unsigned. It'll invite friends.
They'll swoop down together over my kitchen sink,
or watch until I step naked out of the bathroom.
I'll swat their bulky air-borne bodies, sinister as gas.
They'll ask if I'd consider having a face-lift,
pretend to be my sister, tell me my hairline looks
like a shallow grave. They'll make me wear gum
on my nose, take a drive in their car - all my teachers
who liked lace-up boots high on a my calves.
I know they'll come back, greedy as goats,
chewing on one long flavored piece of string.
I'll talk to no one. Instead, I'll listen
for that single fat possum that dies scratching
each June under my chair, under my floor,
its smell, heavy and oily like something I once
brushed on my wrist with a slight glass wand,
just before becoming ill,
feverish in the room's stale air.
I'll turn toward my shadow, lift the moth
between my thumb and finger
like a tiny bow to a sad violin,
the voice that sings non legato, blunted,
blind, that burrows deep inside
to build a den no one finds.