My Ex-Husband Went on an Ego Trip
and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt
Not that it fits. These relearning years
have packed good fat back onto these wicker
bones, I am no longer a splintered shipwreck
cresting through the skim of my skin,
delighting at the sight of ribs and hipbones,
whittling myself away to emptiness.
And the color, not flattering, this washed
out grey hanging slack and sick, too like
the brittle bark my flesh had become,
the clumps of fractured hair escaping
down the drain, the whispers behind concerned
hands, sure that someone knew why I was dying.
The label, though, is designer, sure to be
Versace or Westwood or some other hollow word
hallowed by him, byproduct of too many small hours
lit only by the blue flicker of computer monitor,
scouring eBay for fashion finds, or downloading
torrents of porn, or writing hate mail to his wife.
And yet here it hangs, mean ghost at the back of my
closet, where I can’t resist worrying at it, memory
trembling my fingers, even though I could have sworn
I’d thrown out this threadbare relic years ago.
How to Be an Accidental Cougar
Who knew nonchalance was so much work.
The plucking, the concealing, the hunch
over toes applying painstaking color
because a salon pedicure is a wish list luxury
ever since the deliberate nosedive from
power suit weekdays to one scuffed pair of jeans,
threads barely clinging to each other.
Which is why the men are now twenty-
something writers and artists and musicians,
not fifty-something civil servants, and yes,
it’s such a cliché, but there they are, all metaphor
and hunger and fingers that swear they don’t care
about the desert of years sprawling between you.
Maybe their hands just haven’t learned to lie yet.
Because here you are, cross-examining every crease
in the mirror, trying not to divide them all by doubt,
sculpting a reasonable facsimile of casual
from detritus time has heaved up on the shores
of your bones. Resisting the urge to plan
these insistent bucks an escape route
on the roadmap veins of your legs.
How to Spend New Year’s Eve with the Lover Who Just Left You
Be sure to laugh often and with that open throat abandon
that has pressed him to be funny since your first date.
Keep it simple, a mosaic of the motions that made you
both nestle into this thing and marvel at how easy it is. Was.
Go for a walk. Keep the pace brisk and the conversation snappy,
do not speak of the sudden panic that has pried him from you.
Play video games. Be bloodthirsty and fierce and convinced
that buddies is an acceptable subset of what you once were.
Do not think about your last night together. If you must, delight
that it was finally in his bed, that his sheets still wear your scent.
Talk art while sitting on your kitchen counter and yes, you may
forgive yourself for needing to remind him why he fell for you.
Say goodbye before the main event. Call it so long or see you soon, but
let him go. Hope is a dangerous holdout for a woman starting over.
My niece and I stand feet planted,
torsos turned, yearning toward targets,
hooked fingers pulling attention
back to ears ringing with satisfying
sounds of propulsion.
We are mismatched mirrors here,
both bow-bent in concentration,
our relentless need to succeed,
but slowly easing into the easy
meditation rhythm of this newfound
knack of hers, this talent I’d always
wished for myself.
She is my backward glance through years,
intuitive word sponge of a girl all elbows
and horse wishes and I keep
touching her today, like I can
somehow soothe the middle school me
with one more tuck of her hair
behind my ears.
She is effortless with me and our myriad
symmetries, holds back neither questions
nor fear, informs me she’s got absolutely
no idea what she wants to be
when she grows up. I reassure her:
at her age indecision means options
and besides, if she ever really wonders how
her life will play out she need only to
look at me.
She focuses her laugh back to target,
gaze narrowing down to yellow, and I
realize what I have just said, think of all
the me that I want to shield her from,
trio of failed marriages, sleep-hungry
nights, whiskey years, and in a spasm
of superstitious panic I jostle her elbow,
skew her aim just enough so she doesn’t
hit my mark.
Karrie Waarala’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Blackbird, Iron Horse Literary Review, PANK, The Collagist, and Vinyl. She is the poetry editor at the museum of americana and holds an MFA from the Stonecoast Program at University of Southern Maine. Recipient of the 2012 Pocataligo Poetry Prize, a Best of the Net finalist, and a multiple Pushcart nominee, Karrie has also received critical acclaim for LONG GONE: A Poetry Sideshow, a one-woman show based on her collection of circus poems. She really wishes she could tame tigers and swallow swords.