Post-Romantic

By Paisley Rekdal Paisley Rekdal
Yesterday, everything was possible. Today we’re good
as married. You don’t want to hear that,
do you, thinking I’m going to call you back
in from the rain to fight over the morning paper,
limning my deft and emotional promiscuities?
That we’ll sit in our sitting room,
watching the shaggy junipers twirl in winter wind
as a storm closes its throat around the city?
I’m thinking about how to ask God to be nicer.
I’m thinking about that fabled leper colony
where the last, solitary patient waited inside its unlocked tower
three years in the belief she could not step outside.
And how the local doctors visited only
to re-wrap her face, to brush out her last gold strands
of hair, wondering how to save anybody
so willing to kill herself with denial.
They wanted to talk about pain, the doctors, to say,
One day, you’ll be half asleep in the dark, listening to a radio
play in another room, and feel yourself
suddenly filling like a jug with the cold
awareness nothing more will ever happen, the disaster
of your old ambivalence, the familiarity
of desire’s wolfish teeth sinking into the body.
The body, as if it didn’t belong to you anymore.
The doctors said, Fear should never be elevated
to ritual. They told the woman, You must change your life!
One day, I’m on the steps of an office tower losing a shoe,
the next I’m screaming on a gurney, I’m stuffing a baby
into a diaper. I’m wondering the woods
in my scar-dark cape. Every story has an archetype, doesn’t it?
And if so, why aren’t we married? Why can’t we be
just like everyone else this fucking, fucking once? God, I hate
the way this tale is turning out: two aged strangers learning
to tuck in their blood, hiding the knives and bread crumbs
deep inside their pockets. Look, this time I swear,
I won’t run; really; I’ll come and go from my stone room
without a mirror, all my extremities taped in white.
I’ll learn to knit with three fingers. I’ll learn to read
into the deepening silences, to be nice to your step-sisters,
singing to drown out the tears of their ugliness.
I love you. Can I even say that? In this story,
I want to spend the rest of my life growing quietly bored with you,
locking away loom and spindle, sweeping out the piles
of rose petals and ash. For once, I plan to triumph
over smug experience. I marry you. Don’t hit me.
Please, just come in from the stars awhile, sit here
in this sitting room, let me find you another section of the paper
to argue over. The doctors said I get to wear a suit.
They said I’ll be released next Thursday. Listen:
even now, the junipers are whispering their dark good-byes,
thin limbs smocked in white. A riderless horse has appeared
on the horizon. And somewhere, out in the meretricious night,
somebody’s life is quietly changing.

Paisley Rekdal, "Post-Romantic" from The Invention of the Kaleidoscope. Copyright © 2007 by Paisley Rekdal.  Reprinted by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: Poetry (September 2006).

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This poem originally appeared in the September 2006 issue of Poetry magazine

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September 2006
 Paisley  Rekdal

Biography

Rekdal grew up in Seattle, Washington, the daughter of a Chinese American mother and a Norwegian father. She earned a BA from the University of Washington, an MA from the University of Toronto Centre for Medieval Studies, and an MFA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is the author of the poetry collections A Crash of Rhinos (2000), Six Girls Without Pants (2002), and The Invention of the Kaleidoscope (2007) as well . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Marriage & Companionship, Relationships, Love, Men & Women, Nature, The Body, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

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