In The Guise of My Lover, #151

A woman lies down in this bed.

For a moment, she is kind and lovely
and reminds me of all the heroines
and school nurses, all the first grade
teachers and classmates, the exchange
students for whom I held secret crushes
all those long years ago.

A woman lies down in this bed.

She wanders off, back into her logbook
to extrapolate every excruciating detail
from what she admits to be a boring day.

How the men at the firm look down
on her ability. How the clients call in
to speak to people on the golf course
and can’t accept the answer
that the person they so desperately need
is not in today, and when will they be back.
How the boss treated her today,
like every day, without the common respect
each co-worker deserves, how this job
is killing her and she should find another.

For a moment she stops regurgitating
all the painful and bitter pabulum
she was forced to swallow at the office
and for the moment she regains the light
that first drew me to her, a bug to flame.

It’s not that I’m insensitive to the horrors
of a corporate world, or corporal punishment,
or simply to living in this corporeal world.

A woman lies down in this bed.

For me, it’s a matter of knowing what best
to say and do. Do I listen and simply nod
my fool head, thinking of all the words
I would have said, all the things I’d done.

We all know how unhelpful a know-it-all
can be in these tense situations.

For me, it’s a matter of social justice,
and not to get too technical, but isn’t a boss
who discriminates based on race, color, gender
headed for a talk with OSHA?

But none of this proves to be helpful
as I am told it is partially my fault,
being a guy and all, and why do I always try
to fix things. I’m just telling you about my day.
You don’t have to do anything. So the next time,
she comes home and talks to me, well,
spews that pabulum at me and following orders
I do nothing, say nothing, look blindly away.
In silence she asks: Well, what do you think?

I mention OSHA. I mention something sarcastic
about a letter opener to the left eyeball
and get told I am not being helpful.

So, let me understand. Trying to act,
trying to fix things is being a “guy”
and completely unacceptable. Don’t you think
I get enough of that at work?

But, doing nothing, simply listening,
well that’s not helpful. I may as well
just talk to myself in the car ride
on the way home, or when I get home
and you are not home. Is that what you want?

And here is a moment where marriages
soar or falter based on the quick thinking
of one or the other. Now, I am not saying
this is a guy thing or a girl thing. If I asked
her could she believe the ump called him out
when he was obviously safe, she should simply
agree. Agreed? No, honey, of course that’s not
what I want. I’m sorry. I’m listening.

A woman lies down in this bed.

She is haggard and hurting, trying to tear off
her clothing, let go of the vest and the noose
she’s been wearing, put on the pajamas
of our marriage, soft, safe and comfy.

A woman lies down in this bed.

She is neither the woman I fell in love with
nor the one I married, nor the one
who will shut my eyes and kiss my forehead,
lay me down in the grave, cry
over my tombstone when she visits.

She is the woman that exists here
and in this moment, the corporate executive,
the frail emotional wreck, the mid-life diva
half in and half out of her clothing, half
naked, the woman who, in this moment
demands me be a mind reader, a foot rubber,
someone who gets up and hugs her.

What kind of man would I be,
what kind of husband, if in this hour
I picked up my book and thumbed through
it to see where I left off, who rolled over
hoping to get more comfortable, to lie
in a better position, to find out
what happened to the main characters
in this two dimensional drama, pages
after pages of stunning dialogue?

I would be the kind of man who knows
how to read, for whom these pages
make perfect sense, and for whom
the narrative arch of a falsified story
carries more credence than that long
drawn out, repetitive, flat characters
she carries home on her back with her.

What kind of man would I be
if I spoke such things, if I let the disdain
and boredom I harbor inside
escape my lips, if I had the guts
to admit a single truthful thought
that I’m quite sure I should feel awful
just about having batting around
like a cancer it in my head, the fear
that I should be dead just for thinking it?

I would be the kind of man who trusts
what he believes greater than he fears
that wrath of woman, in the guise
of my lover, who cannot fathom why
this man, who she puts up with in all
his failing, could be so cold and callus
he wouldn’t mind sleeping in the bathtub.

She wanders off into her cocoon
of scowl and blankets, where no amount
of pleading can get me back in good graces.

And here is a moment where one
must decide what pleasures, what terrors
and what price one is willing to pay
for entrance through a locked gate,
how much of a deduction or loan
on future interests is worth passage
over the moat of her unending disdain.

For a moment she is at ease, calmed
by my willingness to crawl on my belly
and curl up at her feet like a selfish cat
or dumb and loving puppy, to nuzzle
my face against her exhausted flesh,
my dedication to her happiness.

It’s not that I have no backbone,
no spine or sense of self-worth
that warns me groveling is another sin.

She is at peace, and even a bit happy.
She smiles, and the corners
of her mouth become a buoy
in my turbulent, stormy seas.

What kind of man would I be
if I spent the night awake, considering
how to solve all the puzzles the Gods
placed in front of me, the books,
the toys, the most cost efficient
price while shopping at market,
if in this moment I did not expend
considerable energy trying to find
a way for this woman to sleep happy.

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A day is not done, until it's filled with words.

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