poem #23

When he doesn’t touch me,
I think about the others
he may have known,
in the biblical sense,
in the Ardennes or
in Morocco
or in Turin.
He drove locomotives in the nights
from ‘42 to ’44, running
with no headlights,
not knowing
if dynamite
was on the tracks.
How can Steubenville
compare with that?
The only pictures he’s shown
depict him smoking
colorlessly with
in the shade
of buildings
that may have been
brothels, chickens
at their feet.
How do I measure with damen,
femmes, and donne?
Widowed, young,
saintly, or plain?
I wear a stained
I’d might as well be
a chambermaid.
How do I understand when
the worst thing I’ve done,
experientially speaking,
is put a bullet
in the brain
of a maimed
Paint Horse
when I was ten?
I’ve known him since age five,
but I would not fault indiscretions.
And I do not need confessions.
He didn’t woo me
until after the war.
Were those three
years a blessing
or a nightmare?
I will never ask directly.
He didn’t bargain for
forward questioning
when he bought me
a ring in 1945—
after he’d returned to
an empty home, his father
dead of a stroke, his mother
hanged on a rope, his brother
full of gin.
I’ve patched him up,
given him children,
washed his clothes,
cooked his meals.
At least he’s in
working order,
in the strict sense,  
driving trains again,
and futzing in the garage
with odds and ends.
He’s so busy now that he’s quiet.
He’s so quiet now that I worry.
Where are the girls he loved?
Where are the boys who died?
I’ve never seen him cry.
I’m not sure
I could bear it.
– Evelyn B. Hirschworth
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