With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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People — friends, acquaintances,
and virtual strangers —
things I don’t want to know.
The president of a college tells me
how he placed his first wife in a residential-care home
during the last eighteen months of her life,
though he had cared for her in her illness
for fifteen years,
and how his present wife has an ominous lump in her breast.
A new acquaintance at a writers’ workshop,
who has shown me her manuscript about a little girl of nine
who is ghoulishly molested by two men for ten hours
before she comes home dazed and afraid to tell,
asks to borrow my rental car for the evening and tells me
the next day that she has attended an AA meeting
in the small town nearby.
A friend on the telephone tells me too many details
of her messy divorce, the money, the children,
the husband’s new lover who has already divorced twice,
and of her own secret and married lover
who typed out the Hail Mary prayer hundreds of times,
cut the pages into strips,
and filled a shoe box full of Hail Marys to give her strength
in time of trouble.
A colleague tells me of his electronic, computer-bulletin-board
romance with a goddess who lives on the other coast,
and how she made him feel young again,
and how he bought a breezy, sporty convertible,
and how they met in Colorado during the summer,
but now his computer has no messages from her,
though he is deeply in love.
A woman I’ve just begun to know tells me
how her only son had a bad trip on drugs, but now
they say he is schizophrenic, and anyway he has
confessed something terrible to her (she doesn’t tell me what)
that she thinks may have brought him to where he is,
a medicated limbo between reality and Mill Creek Hospital.
A dear friend tells me of his desire for — someone,
a certain woman, a desire she cannot return,
and how when he heard a particular piece of music
as he was driving in his car to work,
Brahms perhaps, on the classical-music station,
he pulled his car to the side of the road
because he felt he would weep.
Barbara Kerr Davis