The New Wife [poem] by Madeline Tiger

With her voice of cracked shells,
accented, she rushes
urgent and medicated on thick pile, barefoot required,
from the back room to the front, past glass furniture
and teak, past shelving and statues, stereo and etchings,
to the telephone; breathless, she’s busy
with appointments and diets.
She’s been getting degrees, qualms, visitors.
She decodes complex messages.  She gives catered brunches.
She sits quietly at the opera and the symphony dinner,
looking staid, showing her cleavage. She’s chosen
the new high-rise apartment with the view of my childhood.
She must make up for lost wars, this German, she doesn’t know
she has so few hours to herself. She is relieved to be
busy, deprived of whatever her biology might have made her
want to have, she has grown-up men sleeping in
the well-made beds down her carpeted hall.
She has all their resumes and phone numbers. She receives
their calls and their jokes. She pretends these are her sons.
She takes medicine to stay calm. But when they grope
out of bed to pee or lope over to her coffee pot
she will hear my bones rattle and cackle. She must know
the wild side of the old man on her arm, stiff-jointed tyrant
sweating on steroids, up early for the work-out, how he can
rant and accuse. She turns, she has to be happy. Does she
know he was a curly-haired boy? A terrible boy,
a laughing terrible boy. She saw him just once
dance the Frenzy, the circling Hora, then twist,
at his son’s wedding.  He couldn’t resist breaking out with
his daughter. These must be the visions she holds.
The dancers revel and leave, sleep and leave.
Those are the beauties I bore.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

[Refer: this poem resonates with Phillip Sterling’s poem in this issue, “One Speaks of Loss.”]

 Image by Joel Kramer via Flickr Creative Commons

Madeline Tiger’s  recent collections are Birds of Sorrow and Joy: New and Selected Poems, 1970-2000 (2003), The Earth Which Is All (2008), The Atheist’s Prayer (2010), and From the Viewing Stand, (2011).  Her work appears regularly in journals and anthologies. She has been teaching in state programs and private workshops since 1973 and has been a “Dodge Poet” since 1986. She has five children and seven grandchildren and lives in Bloomfield, NJ under a weeping cherry tree. Read more at

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