In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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Our first appointment late
on a Friday, the therapist
ought to be tired. Instead she’s honed
like an old knife ready to skin
us cleanly out of our marriage.
She offers a couch or separate chairs
and you choose the black chair near the door
while I settle in a dark corner
where a plant has recently died.
“What brings you here?” she begins,
and you shyly open the bandage
for her to probe. I wonder did she
see our X-rays, how’d she know
the perfect place to stick the knife?
Once, I watched a country neighbor
expertly skin a squirrel. The fur slipped off
like a glove. “Done one, you done ’em all.”
Are all of us alike? Small stunned mammals,
unable to go on, afraid to let go,
a slice and a tug and the bond tears loose
with very little blood? We paid our money
and walked out shivering.
She went to the mountains with her dog,
built a fire in the stove,
lit lamps, cooked dinner
and read all night.
The little stream outside her door
ran loud, out of its banks,
and it snowed all the next day.
She came to love
her swollen face in the wavy mirror,
the neat crack of maple logs
and the axe’s blond handle
that fit her hand so aptly.
Her dreams, as she slept unafraid
of anyone who might come to her door,
were of her own ghost, a bride
in these mountains before they were scarred.
The last night, when she felt her need
disperse, she didn’t beg or question
but wrapped the dark around her like a lover
and took the eager cold into her bones.