A Champs-Élysées Stroll, 1980
On a torrid day, traffic and tourists sweat
as we trudge toward Café Ladurée.
I’m determined to taste the famed macaroons
a friend raved about.
My husband sights a brasserie
and wants to skip macaroons,
souring my Paris magic.
I hurl our history at him:
You don’t love me. You never loved me.
His eyes flare, his lips quiver.
Then his body snakes across ten lanes of cars,
leaving me gilded in guilt,
staring at the Arch of Triumph.
He had quit smoking, and now
he returns, puffing a cigarette,
punishing me, hurting himself.
Two tired tourists call a truce,
march in league down the Champs,
toting a memory, a slice of time
toasted with heat, hot words, and smoke.
To Toast Or Not To Toast
I’m making toast.
Do you want some? he asks.
I look up and say, Hmm…
I had a late lunch. I’m not sure…
My husband shakes his head.
He throws his hands up—
It’s not a declaration of war,
it’s just a piece of toast.
He stalks off,
then returns and says, I’m sorry,
I forgot how your brain works.
I ask a question and you answer:
Well…it’s March, but it’s Friday.
Is it raining? Let me think…
I look up and say,
Yes, I’d love a piece of toast.
Proving I’m Unloved
He comes down the stairs
wearing his something’s wrong look.
Years ago, I would have seen that face and said,
You don’t love me. And he’d reply,
If you don’t feel my love—my love’s no good.
Wounded, we would retreat to separate corners.
My therapist said, Projection.
You don’t love your husband when you ask.
After a cocktail party, I presented evidence:
You’d be better off with Sue.
She’s elegant, smart and entertains.
Or is it Beth you want, so sweet and kind?
My therapist said, It’s all about you.
When my husband’s ex called, I accused him
of still loving her. You loved her once. Case closed!
Curled on the couch, I wanted him to come,
to convince me of his love.
My therapist said, You don’t believe you’re lovable.
One night, when we fought, I threw out
You don’t love me, and he hurled,
You’re right! I hate you.
Speechless, I sat there. I’d won my case.
My therapist said, A self-fulfilling prophecy.
Now, downstairs, my husband stands before me.
I look at his distressed face and ask,
Are you okay? Can I help?
Some Things Require Suffering
I panic when my husband decides
he will descale the espresso machine
and phones the company for help.
I’ve read the directions and know
the acid used can ruin our counters.
I want information and a plan.
My husband wants it done.
On the speakerphone, the male technician
listens like a therapist as we argue.
My husband starts to proceed.
Stop, I scream and rush for protection.
He lifts the machine. My tarp
doesn’t cover the porous granite.
Stop. I rush for towels.
Unruffled, the two men talk.
My husband opens the lactic acid
over the sink and I say,
This is what’s dangerous.
No, he says, you are.
The machine chugs and spits poison.
I chug and spit poison.
Some things require suffering.
The two men finish.
They couldn’t have done it without me.
Stop The World
I agree with the man who wrote
Stop the World—I Want to Get Off
because people aren’t kind and good,
because I have to be perfect and I fail,
because I have to suffer and repent,
because I join my husband on his business trip,
because that puts me in downtown Los Angeles,
because the sun shines bright and I want to hide,
because everyone sees I don’t belong,
because briefcasers rush in all directions,
because my mind judges my every move,
because the museum cashier stares at me,
because at the outdoor escalator a black man sings,
because he talks straight up to people,
because he says, Where all you people goin’?
because he clearly belongs in this world,
because I’m lost with no breadcrumb trail,
because I find my hotel and rush to my room,
because I sigh relief when I close the door,
because I climb under the covers and cry,
because I fall asleep and for awhile
I stop the world and get off.