while you were away

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wanting to write a poem to encompass the depth and breadth of emotions i’ve been feeling lately, yet feeling trite, saccharine and obvious, i chose to read instead. i happened upon this poem in the May 2007 issue of The Sun that somehow helped me feel slightly less singular.

while you were away
by Richard Newman

I thought about sex. I turned 40, drank beer
on the back porch by myself. Called an ex.
Last night, the woman across the alley, the one
with that green porch light, suddenly appeared
in a white and black Dalmation-spotted bathrobe,
bare legs, and slippers and shuffled down wet bricks.
She may have seen me, but she also saw
our other neighbor’s Datsun gone, that guy
she dated once or twice, out all night,
and so she quickly shuffled right back home.
From the front side of the house, across the street,
a guy kept yelling, “April! April! April!”
He pounded on the door, “C’mon, April!”
I am also sick of the month of March.
The season sucks us out of our houses, pulls
us onto porches and down damp alleys. We keep
testing our breaths against the cool night air.

This afternoon I made corn chowder, baked bread,
roasted asparagus for the Bollingers,
the mother deep in chemotherapy
for the second time. Their ten-year-old daughter
plays sweeper on the fifth-grade soccer team.
I wonder if the couple still has sex,
and if they do each time feels like the last.

Tonight the neighborhood is quiet.
No dogs bark. Everyone must have been
sucked back inside, maybe licking their wounds.
Our neighbor’s light still burns a fungus green.
The roots begin to stir in the cold March rain.
I feel like I’ve been 40 all my life.
My daughter is at her mother’s, and tonight,
you are so much farther away than sleep.
I finish another High Life, go upstairs
and crawl beneath the covers, shiver, naked.
The dog’s been on the bed, smelly but warm –
the only warmth tonight, so I’ll take it.

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