Poem for an Ex by Sheila Black

I resisted accusing you, because
I was guilty, too—rewriting you to make
you fit, and don’t we all play such tricks
with the “story of our lives?” Yet unlike
Muriel Spark, who once remarked
no character of hers could so much cross
a street without her willing it, you keep
doing whatever you like. What does
not blur or bleed? My neighbor’s child
who hoards a single jar of peanut butter
under the bed. I who press my
face to your chill mirror—which gives
back nothing. For so long, I wanted to believe
you were an accident I would recover
from—minor detour, tumble off a wagon,
but here I confess my failure—same
cul de sac, the stacked parking lot, for
which I must accuse you, even if
unknowing, disingenuous, ask only that
you look, here, at what you have
wrought. And yet I can help feeling a
slight awe at how expertly you turn
yourself in—make yourself apart—like
a mirror of a pool of water, never holding
whatever passes over. Clouds, sky,
trees—they all appear more or less the same.
Even now as I swear I have given you
up for good your loneliness pierces, or
maybe my own, as if we were—the two
of us– trapped in a duet with the water,
glassine-smooth and terribly silent.
What happens to those lives we fumble,
leave on the muddy field, the battered
players who slowly rise, crack their
knees, shake out their arms? Those wounded
warriors—leaf of a sycamore, the girl on
a bed who stares for hours at a simple
crack in the ceiling. And love, which is
always birthing new hate. And hate, which is
always birthing new ways to love— loves
more cognizant, solitary. Once you told me
I should not think of this as losing, but
simply as change. And I have clutched
your words like a cheap floral bouquet.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

[Refer: This poem put the editors in mind of Nancy Priff’s poem “Tithonus Cries Enough“]

Sheila Black is the author of House of Bone, Love/Iraq, and Wen Kroy. She is a co-editor of Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, named a 2012 Notable Book for Adults by the American Library Association. A 2012 Witter Bynner Fellow, selected by Philip Levine, she lives in San Antonio, Texas where she directs Gemini Ink, a literary arts center.

 Image by Brian Cantoni