The Bad Wife

By Elizabeth Powell

The door’s made of gingerbread that the rats have eaten through.
You finger your record albums like cold, frigid women.
You could be more silent than silence without much of a fight.
I float, a birthday party balloon you let go into the deepening sky.
How I once felt my life against yours, two pieces of burnt toast.
The town had zoned me for you, now I’m a wetlands—
You can’t run your cable under my land anymore.
There’s nothing wrong with you, just as there is nothing wrong with the sky.
At my core, a humming gas heater, rusted, though still useful.
Nothing loves the world as a mortal soul can.
Yet the very word domestication sounds like a zoo for housewives.
Let’s see—what prayer was it we were saying?
Yes (of course), the one that got us here.
Once I loved you madly, like a girl pirate,
Now I use my sword to pick up moldy, low-loft towels from the floor.
Now we wear headsets because we can’t hear our own music.
Once I was your bride, now nothing more than a mermaid nun,
And the sea is so choppy, torrential, wild, biblical with sadness.
Oh, once you smelled of mint, of truth.


Elizabeth Powell’s first book of poems, The Republic of Self, won the 2000 New Issues First Book Prize, chosen by C.K. Williams. Her work has also appeared or is forthcoming in the Missouri Review, the Green Mountains Review, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. She teaches at the University of Vermont.

Originally appeared in NOR 3

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