“Two Variations on the Theme of Goodbye” by Christine Aletti

Monet_water lillies (Two Variations On)
Water Lilies, a study by Claude Monet, circa 1920

1.

The night needing left, bromeliads broke
from trees.  I hung my belly on the line to
dry in the moonlight and admired its shine.

Just at the edge of shadow, I waited,
patiently, for your voice.  Nothing came.
All was silent.  The palms stood solitary

as guards.  Cranes settled down, indifferent
to air.  The ponds blackened in disregard
and below, the trout denied swimming.

All was silent.  I should’ve known:
without needing, there’d be no noise, no
cacophony of please, I love you, let’s

have dinner.  I should’ve known:
my belly would twist and dry on the line
and emptiness would feel, simply, like nothing.

I grew to miss our arguing— the way
your words spiked inside me like
those broken flowers— the way

arguing leaves sloped and sighed, allowed
for the speckle of cream.  Out the door:
coffee-bean grinders and night-time tremors,

I think I lost a tooth in your mug—
Can you swallow my agenda?  Or,
even better, yesterday’s phrases?

There’s no need to utter them now.

 

2.

And forgetting, forgetting never came.
Sundays it rained and I never made it
to the beach.  Little dogs fell in the pool

while the oak held toads, fucking.
Their bellows pulsed alien and dank.
Summer wouldn’t leave; I sat outside

only at 6 am, when it was simply thick
air and gnats ignorant to flesh. Listened
in piss yellow patio lights to trucks rattle

down the road beyond the lake, airplanes
echo, soar and flash red and I forgot nothing
of New York City on a Monday; how when

it was finally quiet— the cologne and beer
disgusted, the handbills disheartened— fruit
trucks started down Broadway, tin-tailed,

stumbling into every little piece of broken
asphalt.  I never slept.  And how, when
you finally answered what lingered—

the cellphone’s throb and the question’s
swallow—salamanders didn’t stop
creeping up concrete. Gnats still attacked.

Even in the heat, forgetting never came;
Florida remained a yeast infection
that yearned for my body’s niches, but

I was not ready to give myself over
to invasion and forget everything, you.

 

 

Christine Aletti has an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College. Her poems have been published in Two Hawks Quarterly and Tattoo Highway. Christine lives in New Jersey, where she teaches writing to unruly youths and yoga to disciplined yuppies.

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