Lesser Evils

By Joel Brouwer b. 1968 Joel Brouwer
After a morning of work in separate rooms
she said she was going to the municipal pool
and he said he would walk along the river   
for a while before they met back for their lunch   
of tomatoes and cheese. But in fact she went   
to the lobby of the Hotel du Panthéon   
to read the Herald Tribune and drink a cup   
ofnthe Irish tea she liked and he to   
the little church of St. Médard. A couple   
old women in housedresses knelt in the first pews.   
He sat in the back, with the drunks or alone.
And at lunch she said terrible, the lanes
were filled with kids from the elementary school
or terrific, I had it to myself. And he said
a barge full of oyster shells. Then quiet sex
with the curtains drawn against the chemistry
students conducting their experiments in the building   
across the street. Incremental triumphs   
of exactitude and necessity. In the evenings   
they liked to fire champagne corks over at the vast   
darkened laboratory windows. Imagining the mice   
startling in their cages, imagining catastrophe.   
Turning back to their tumors with relief.

Source: Poetry (December 2005).


This poem originally appeared in the December 2005 issue of Poetry magazine

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December 2005
 Joel  Brouwer


Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, poet Joel Brouwer is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and Syracuse University. Brouwer is the author of several collections of poetry, including And So (2009); Centuries (2003), a National Book Critics Circle Notable Book; and Exactly What Happened (1999), winner of the Larry Levis Reading Prize from Virginia Commonwealth University. He has also published several chapbooks. Brouwer has been . . .

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POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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