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Questions About the Wife

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I’m having trouble understanding the wife.
The wife seems like she is only there as a foil to your actions.
I want to know how the wife feels when you drag her
and your son down into the basement to start a new religion.
The religion has something to do with cowering
before a force greater than yourself and then being buried alive.
I want to know how the wife behaves in small, enclosed spaces:
if she is trying to comfort your son by telling him Daddy likes
to play funny games, or if she is already visualizing
herself walking into a women’s shelter, your son
on her back and maybe, because this is a fantasy,
she carries a burning torch, like an angry villager, or a goddess.
Does the wife merit any revenge after you weed whack
the coffee table? Does she agree with you that the coffee table
is yours to destroy because you built it? What has she built
in the house that is hers to destroy? What kind of childhood
has the wife endured that allows her to understand you?
In her past life or lives, was the wife ever a shepherdess?
Does she see you as a sort of Pan, goatish, and pricked
by ticks, but also very well-endowed? When the wife transforms
into a tree can she still think or is she just a green haze
inside, an idea of growing? I would like to see the wife
peel off that bark, leaving only enough for modesty’s sake,
although as this is your poem, we can take a bit more off.
I want to see her uproot herself, pick up the house and shake it.
How many people fall out?
The wife has something about her the Germans
would call unheimlich. I sometimes catch a glimpse of the wife
out of the corner of my eye but then I look away.
I cannot look directly at the wife. The wife is a conflagration
of everything dear. I wonder sometimes if she is faking;
There is a certain note she holds too long
so the orgasm is more operatic, less genuine.
When she cries, Oh my God, really, she should stutter.
Let’s say the wife wakes up in the morning.
You have already made breakfast. Does your kindness feel oppressive?
Does she want to take your weed whacker through the house?
Has she ever, in a fit of anger, destroyed your pornography?
When you found a picture of the wife online with a foreign handprint
smacked red on her ass, how quickly did your shock turn to arousal?
Are you aware the wife is breaking down in public places,
and sometimes cannot move for thirty minutes? Sometimes
her arm goes entirely numb from the shoulder down. I think the wife
might need some fine-tuning, some elbow grease,
some wrenching apart, and then reassembling.

Rebecca Hazelton, “Questions About the Wife” from Vow. Copyright © 2013 by Rebecca Hazelton. Reprinted by permission of Cleveland State University Press Poetry Center.
Source: Vow (Cleveland State University Press Poetry Center, 2013)
Questions About the Wife

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