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Lines That Didn’t Make The Cut: Sometimes It’s Just a Big Mess

I don’t remem­ber where the first two lines of this came from, but some­how it end­ed up being a very long poem spo­ken most­ly by a woman decid­ing to leave her hus­band. As I read it now, it’s a big mess, some­thing in which I tried to incor­po­rate and explore a host of ideas and argu­ments and issues about men and women, sex­ism and vio­lence, reli­gion and pop­u­lar cul­ture, and more. It’s not that these issues are not relat­ed, but, when I think about it now, what I was real­ly doing was try­ing to con­dense into a poem a world that could’ve been devel­oped into a nov­el. Any­way, these lines are where that poem start­ed. I no longer think they work as poet­ry, and I’m not sure if I care enough about the world that’s in them to do any­thing else with it, but I am still fond of the ambi­tion they embody:

I don’t feel guilty when I wish you dead
till I force myself to fill the details in:
Eyes shocked open, round as quar­ters.
Mouth a twist­ed hol­low I read back from
to what entered you. Black stain on the floor,
once a pool of your dimin­ish­ing life,
seduc­ing my gaze into the shad­ow
between your legs I do not want to check
for what might be miss­ing. I look any­way.
It’s gone. When they found you, they didn’t see
at first our son’s body hang­ing from ropes
that had eat­en quar­ter-inch-deep grooves into his wrists.
He entered this fan­ta­sy only late­ly,
and maybe I am the mon­ster his pres­ence means.

The report, leaked to the one jour­nal­ist
who doesn’t trust their sin­gle-psy­chopath
ver­sion of events, screamed “clas­si­fied”
in over­sized red let­ters on the cov­er,
and when he hand­ed it to me he said,
I know who you are and I know what’s at stake.
Then he walked back to his car, the clip-clop
of his shoes against the pave­ment a rhythm
I would undress him to for days to come.
You’ll think there real­ly is anoth­er man,
but even if that’s so, and it’s not, he’s not
this guy, who man­ages to save my life
only because he doesn’t know who he’s fight­ing
when he shoul­ders open my front door

on the men who’ve come to kill me, because
if he did know who we was up against
he’d lose him­self fast, some­where, any­where,
with a new name and, if he could afford it,
a new face. Years would pass, decades even,
and he’d think they’d giv­en up on find­ing him,
but they wouldn’t, and when they did find him
they’d make him pay out his life in the same
slow min­utes of pain they col­lect­ed from you.
But you aren’t real­ly dead, and I’m not real­ly
wish­ing you were, at least not this moment.
You told me once I should’ve been a man.
No true woman would think the things you do.
I’m guess­ing you’ll take this hatred as your proof.

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