Why a Dilettante Poet Looks Better Than You

I've carried the poem in my wallet for ten years. Its presence plays heavily on every pocketbook I've purchased since Andy slipped it to me in English class my junior year, folded into twelfths and now torn at the creases. The blue ink has faded in some areas but I know the words by heart. I'll never throw the poem away because it means something; it's the most passionate, meaningful gift a man has ever given me, an interpretation of his affection for me in verse.

And you're such a snob, holding it above my head while I reach for it, trying not to make a scene, and you're repeating the words "A rose in bloom in the misty days of May," second stanza, line three.

It's been rent since we went to Europe. I read it constantly there. Every time you complained about how stupid the French were because they wouldn't speak English to you, I excused myself into the ladies room and removed it from my money belt and read it a hundred times, it became an antiseptic for my loneliness and disgust. And when you complained that the English had no culinary sense with their "nasty bangers," I went shopping, took the double-decker to High Street, holding the poem in my hand until it was damp from perspiration and being gripped so longingly.

I watch you sitting across from me now at this filthy American diner, where you're sucking down depression dough from a kitchen where the cook is wiping his nose with the back of his hand; where the garbage is stacked up so high in the back that the smell wafts through the dining room. The letter C is taped onto the door from the health department, I know what C means, it means that cockroaches are actively climbing on the prep counter while the cook makes navy bean soup.

You scoop up runny egg yolk with lard-soaked bread. It leaks down your hand.

You're reading my poem while you're eating and I've lost my appetite, so I push back my plate of poached eggs which float in a small bowl of water, and pass on the honeydew melon that's wilted around the edges. Now, my poem sits on the yellow linoleum beside your plate and you read stanza three, line four "When I gaze upon you I feel the richness of the day," and you laugh so hard that yoke drips from your lips and down your chin. It dangles there and hardens and I decide not to tell you.

Instead, I grab my poem and I get up from the table and leave you there. The car is parked just outside, but I catch a taxi, repeating the last line of the poem that Andy wrote me out loud, "But since the day you left me, the flowers don't smell as sweet," stanza five, line five.

About the author:

MaryAnne McCollister lives in a house on a hill, where she counts her blessings daily. Her work can be seen at various on-line venues and in print at Ink Pot. She keeps a not-so-private journal which can be read here maryannemccollister@sbcglobal.net.