The Drinker's Wife Writes Back

by Jean Valentine

(A suburb, 1947)

You never hear me, your letter said.
But I was the one who always listened
and understood, reliable, listening
at your thought's door...I was steady
as the oak our bed is made of...

The name of a good doctor, your letter said.
I wait in his green waiting room;
my hands are big, pale, idle. Neutral, intent,
his secretary calls me "Dear;
like one of my own children.

He is kind. I can't last out the hour.
The window panes behind him stare me down,
the lenses over his eyes. He asks, What brings me here?
But I feel-not naked
but absent, made of air

because how could I ever have told
anyone how it was, how the lighted house
went out in the gin brightness
you called 'the war'-and that I did this to you-
I did not do this...

Last updated March 18, 2023