I Could Touch It

When my wife was breaking apart, my son was falling in love.

She lay on the couch with a heated sack of rice on her belly,
sometimes dozing, sometimes staring out the window at the olive tree

as it broke into tiny white blossoms, as it swelled into bitter black fruit.

At first, I wanted to spare him.
I wished he was still farming up north, tucking bulbs of green onions
into their beds and watering the lettuce,
his hands gritty, his head haloed in a straw hat.

But as the months deepened, I grew selfish.

I wanted him here with his new love.
When I passed the open bathroom door, I wanted
to see them brushing their teeth,

one perched on the toilet lid, one on the side of the tub,
laughing and talking through their foamy mouths,
toothbrushes rattling against their teeth.

Like sage gives its scent when you crush it. Like stone
is hard. They were happy and I could touch it.

More Poems by Ellen Bass