Jill Alexander Essbaum
after Simon Armitage’s “To His Lost Lover”
Now they are no longer
any trouble to each other…
And the letter she deigns to write might begin:
Well, Dear, I am drunk again.
Or: Last night, I dreamt I was Magdalene
and you were Jesus Christ.
Or: Isn’t it nice
how we’ve avoided such backbite
betrayals as I’m sure we both once planned
to carry out? And she could expound
upon this, explaining how the Left Hand
knew not what or who the Right Hand did,
knew not that it hid, clenched like a fist
in his pocket, ever an inch
away from waving goodbye. It wasn’t
anybody’s fault. Our kismets
got crossed, or—shall I muse?—the descant
of our song trailed off and the melody
couldn’t survive on its own. And her script, sloppy
as gin would admit: Often, I think on you fondly.
But both will confess that the bed they shared was flawed
by frame, by farewell. How well he said
her name when he meant Someone Else, and the hushed,
dim sinning of the linens.
how it ended.
Still bright in her mind, a sorehead spree
of insult added upon injury.
And, her misery. Nevertheless, her letterhead might read
in twelve point Garamond a fresh nomenclature.
For what he once cut loose, she will have sutured
to another. And really, seeing as they had no future
(did they?), this will sting him, but briefly,
a bee in his boxers, chiefly,
though—and truly—her intent is not to maim. Fifty
years from today, neither will quibble
over how or when at last it came to pass, but will instead recall
with flinching precision how subdermal
like a splinter did they burrow underneath each other’s skin.
And she, she might remember again, but warmly, the dimple in his chin,
and the thin, tinny rasp in his off-guard voice, the backspin
on his tennis serve. His nerve. Or, what noise he made above her,
coming. Or, the haste by which he abandoned her,
going. And yet, there
have been such interim
moments wherein she thinks she catches sight of him
in street-crowds, where she rushes through the bedlam,
calls his name out to a stranger. In a bar
once, as she lingered over Scotch and licked, with her finger
the rim of the glass, she swore
she heard him laughing right behind her. She spun about so quick
she burned her coat on someone’s cigarette. It wasn’t him, but a fragment
of what could have been anyone guised in the scent
of his cologne and the dumb, blunt drone
of that old Ha-ha. Dare she disclose how many phone
calls she aborted half-way through the dial? The gallstone
ache from where her heart ought be but isn’t any more? Or
that hers is become a different heart, a heart of the corkboard
strain? She bobs and floats in a neap tide’s wake. Before,
were we so bedriddenly smitten, we did not quit
the house for thirteen days. And After? Shit
if I know. This, will she write bereftly,
for Everything gets ruined in the moonlight,
especially the moonlight. And she will sign
in her pie-eyed scribble, a surprisingly
barefaced P.S.: As pain is to suffering, sex is to lust,
and what I should not say is what I must.
That I forgot how quickly forgetfulness comes.
Also. I forgot to love.
Jill Alexander Essbaum
Author Discusses Poems