The night returns humid, sweating through
the damp curtains, then settles at the baseboards,
beginning the pool of evening.
The single expensive vase, its tulip face now
dark, tilts odd-angled on the desk, asks
for the smallest provocation (it’s waited
all day to explode). You give it none.
Your cat is sleeping the shape of answers
into the only comfortable chair,
but let him sleep
because he dreams. His haunches shake.
See the smile of his bared teeth?
The man you lived with leaves a note
Scotch-taped to the lampshade. Gone to Minnesota.
Please feed myfish. Here’s fifteen dollars …
In bed, you smell his boots, leather and sweat
rising from the dark closet doorway.
You think of Blue Earth, Pemberton, Pipestone
and Mankato, his bike a white spot whistling
up the serpentine highway into Minnesota,
the fat, widowed farmers drinking anisette
in municipal bars. You think of their woman
and daughters, straight-backed, Nordic. How they
lie down like angels, Lutheran as the plains.
Something bangs in the radiator, heavier
than heat, reminds you how all things
speak, how small sounds come even
from quiet animals. A dresser drawer closes
rooms away. Your Jehovah landlord with a key
to the place? The sisters who fight
over men a floor below? You don’t fall
into sleep. No splash, no ripple
to disturb the surface. Kneel into the water,
watch the outline of your leg disappear,
then finger, forearm and elbow. Curl yourself
fetal on the empty bed. The shape of a fist.
Copyright © 1995 Erin Belieu
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.