St. Valentine Speaks the Truth for Once
before he caught the plane for Guaymas,
the lacquer heart box
I was going to fill with fudge for him
was still empty.
I stuffed it
with bought cookies
and tucked them in his bag,
not food for much.
Any love I might have felt
somehow got left out at the last minute.
He was hurrying to catch the plane.
There wasn’t time to do things properly.
But today it feels like things were done just right.
Loving him has always felt this empty.
Our hollows we filled from the very first
with fresh tortillas, warmed with butter on the grill,
cookies from the corner doughnut shop.
Real cookies. One would make a breakfast
or a midnight meal
in bed, before the lights went out.
First the bed lamp,
then the t.v. screen.
His third wife didn’t like to cuddle,
but I made up for that.
In return, he gave it almost all.
But what he saves his mouth for,
I can’t guess.
I even gave up smoking for a year.
Still, no kisses.
I took up writing poems
about early loves, all kisses.
I thought their poetry
than he was in the dark.
We bought more cookies,
bags of them.
We kept nuts on the bedside table.
Hershey Kisses, one after the other,
are almost foreplay.
When he comes,
it’s only a sound.
A tiger growl.
I listen. Once, I laughed.
I just can’t believe he feels that much,
because when we love, if you can call it that,
I never seem to be along with him.
Once, in those first weeks
when I was just about to call the whole thing off,
he said to stare into his eyes.
For minutes, I looked into him
and I saw all the men of myths
I’d tried for years to find.
I thought he knew then
what I’d seen in him,
or maybe it was just the grass.
Metaphysics always seem more real
after the pipe is passed.
Really, I still believe what was in his eyes once
when he stopped,
but I can’t love him anymore
I’ve tried so often
in the years since then
to enter his eyes again–
to take him with me,
He’s never followed.
Maybe I need to look into a mirror
Maybe God is buried there as well.
In the evening
after business meetings,
in the bar,
I can imagine eyes like mine
on barstools or in clusters
at the tables
willing to look into his
that love might grow.
I’ve dressed him well.
Other women always comment on how he looks–
cute in his Jaguar hats, brown corduroy and tweed.
I’ve thrown away his plain white undershirts.
Old man shirts, we always called them,
his kids and I.
Even though I never taste him from the collar up,
I take great satisfaction in the decorating
of the rest of him.
Like cookies to taste, his gentleman’s clothes to watch,
him in them, walking toward me
and away from me.
Not stopping much,
at least not long.
If I could keep up with him,
he would be glad to have me there,
but I like to stop along the way.
The picnic breakfast on the ocean cliffs
his hand and mouth for just five minutes.
I need these stopping places
that he gives up in his hurry
to be somewhere else.
All his family
and my family
and my friends
think the fault is his.
The many times I’ve asked him to move out, they’ve understood.
They all recall the crucial times he hasn’t been here.
They see me as weak when I let him stay
another week, a month, a year,
waiting for things to be right in his bank account.
But I’m aware of what they can’t know.
I was glad for him when he took pleasure with a growl.
The pleasure that I took from it
is how the magic women must have felt
after a successful incantation
for the traveler
who sought them out and crossed their palms with silver
for a spell.
and my family
and my friends
do not understand
that this is what is left in this for me—
this thin crust just before its crumbling.
For, though it’s definite that Cupid’s arrow missed the heart
on the cover of the Valentine he left for me
before he flew to Guaymas,
It’s also true
that inside the card
he called me
This is a poem written in 1985 that I’ve been doing some work on, but I still don’t feel like the ending stanzas are right. Actually, in real life, I asked him out to lunch, gave him this poem to read and he moved out the next day. All he said after reading it was something like, “God, you just tell the brutal naked truth!!!!” A year and a half later, I married one of the great loves of my life. Happy Ending.