Clement V

In bed her stomach was making all the noises
Of an old shortwave radio in a schizophrenic plumber’s truck
Tuned to a pagan solstice incantation.
Guttural sounds from a girl’s bedroom in, of all places,
On the longest night.

In the morning I asked her:
What did you eat yesterday?
She looked at me confused and sort of distracted.
I denied her context and said,
Well never you mind,
In the Irish nanny soprano voice I do so well.

The way she would look at me

Like I wasn’t even there
Would leave my private thoughts exposed
And transferable
In her uncle’s Crown Victoria.

Now we are late for something
Eating fish sticks standing up for breakfast
On the second shortest day
And everything I think
Is entirely my own.
Getting in the car, I tell her this in so many words.

She reminds me that I’ve said it before,
More simply and more effectively than I’m saying it now:

Sometimes I am the guy
That trains the sea lion to clap hysterically,
Sometimes I am the sea lion.

We are going to an auction
Where the city’s old garbage trucks are being sold.
Her plan is to sell them for a profit
To Mexican municipal governments.
Through the mist the rain is refusing to fall.

Some of it is rising like steam.

I remember
At that truck stop diner,
The Nine Pound Skillet,
A sunburned fellow named Ray told the story
Of his year as a mute.
His voice sputtered, ejecting and depositing syllables
Like lumps from a carton of rotten milk
As if he were still recovering,
And she gave him a papal kiss on the brow.

That was before we had given up on becoming pharmacists,
The good old days.
When it was always midnight,
The first moment
Of a day with nothing to do.

In my old age I will be referred to as
A big cost-effectiveness guy.
She will be the mother of my child,
As I plan to impregnate her soon.
In the years we’ll spend failing
To figure out what we owe each other,
I think we’ll get really good at things we don’t care about,
Like making our own broths
Or speaking casual French and changing air conditioner filters.
I think we’ll finally have
No shame.