the poem without hope in it
yesterday I met a couple who fought hard to be together
fought in an irrational, wholehearted kind of way
to prove that they thought they could love each other, maybe
18 months later he only eats off the kids menu and her mother is waiting for it all to unravel—
they disappoint each other in a slow, soggy sort of way.
she spent 5 weeks in his rural Wisconsin childhood
she says she didn't actually eat that much cheese.
hot dish and pizza pockets.
the clumsy slurping sound of watery gallons of milk lapping at their jugs.
packing herself, her childhood away, as quietly as she could
into the cabinets of their midwestern living room, nestled under the little league trophies
between marble counter tops and beige carpeting and people so used to the cold, they couldn't form sentences around the heat.
one more kirkland food container in the trash, one more repurposed skippy's jar.
pretending she hadn't seen the world
that the food wasn't too bland,
macaroni hot dish three days in a row
the way his milk fed belly no longer drew her,
the flushing in his stubbled grain fed cheeks
his floppy black curls only reminding her-
of coconut oil and tight braids and driving on the left side of the road
chili oil and tight braids and the rhythm-
of a culture that she could breathe into, that pushed back, gushed back, roared quietly.
Unlike the limp green zucchini on limp white spaghetti,
not the whir of the dryer on Sunday next to the tan wicker laundry basket
nor the americanness of a coat rack and a syrupy family voice machine
she stayed all five weeks.
and she said she'd miss them when she was gone
but could think only-
of every pungent, scented, sordid memory-
that she'd locked away in their living room cabinets, beside the pleather La-Z-Boy
maybe now, she too would leave syrupy voice messages
grow accustomed to his clumsy bowls of cereal and milk, picking at each other like scabs
maybe she'd start to measure time in gallons
and the minutes that connected him to her and her to him,
would grow watery like the bowls of cereal on the kitchen counter.