Lothar’s Wife

By Colleen J. McElroy b. 1935
he’s only a smart-ass when he’s home
with Mandrake
he’s silent and obedient as a snail
his bald pate bowing into the cape’s
trail and dreaming
of tales he’ll bore me with
his one night home

once a month
that’s what I get like clockwork
and always on the full moon
half my allowance he reserves
for sheets, tearing them with his teeth
to vent the forced silence
of those other twenty-odd days

did I say odd
it’s that one day that’s odd
his coming home full of half-tricks
he’s picked up from the master
the hypnotic hunger
he so willingly tries on me
he claims he stole me, bought me

claims he’s Zulu, Bantu, Beja
depending on the hour, day, or year
says I was the black spot
in the white of his eye
the speck he turned into leopard
that unwittingly turned into woman
neither of us no longer knows what’s real

and my mother beats her fat tongue
against her gums
as each month I try to reveal the puzzle
stroking the lines from his hairless
obsidian crown
I hear her rumbling around in the next room
I soothe his sweet head and she moans
heaven protect us from all the things
to which we can become accustomed

Colleen  J.  McElroy, “Lothar’s Wife” from What Madness Brought Me Here: New and Selected Poems, 1968-1988. Copyright © 1990 by Colleen  J.  McElroy and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: What Madness Brought Me Here: New and Selected Poems 1968-1988 (Wesleyan University Press, 1990)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Colleen J. McElroy b. 1935

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Relationships, Men & Women, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity, Gender & Sexuality

 Colleen J. McElroy

Biography

Colleen McElroy was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to a military family that moved often. She earned a PhD in ethnolinguistic patterns of dialect differences and oral traditions from the University of Washington. McElroy has written short stories, plays, television scripts, and nonfiction; her collections of poetry include Winters without Snow (1979); Queen of the Ebony Isles (1984), winner of the American Book Award from the . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Men & Women, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity, Gender & Sexuality

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.