Today's poem is by Alice Friman

The Fireman and His Wife

                            for Vivian and Henry

Sensing the exact amount
of pressure her bones could bear,
he'd fold her to him to still
her fluttering—the crumpled
wing she had become. They say
he left her once, found her too
spunky (his word) and all this
love stuff was nothing but guilt.
But maybe not. V-J Day
he came home whistling, never
to leave despite her flood of
rotten luck, bad heart, Hodgkins,
the shakes and the straw that sucked
her dry—losing the kids.
chicken, which comes first, the job
or the proclivity? All
I know is, he figured out
how to gentle her to him
not from practice or habit
but because how could she live
without him? She was his four-
alarm, his midnight panic
creeping up the stairs. If you
asked what motivated him,
she'd wink in her cocky way,
and in a whisper—for at
the end, whisper was all the
arsenal she had—declare
only that he was kind. But
what kind of word is kind for
a hook & ladder man who
battles terror face to face?
All, but there's terror and then
there's terror. Who's to measure?
Later and alone, he paced
the cell of his backyard each
night. And maybe for the first
time focused not on the pin-
points of fire as he was trained
but the sky's unstoppable
flood of emptiness gushing
out between that made him, not
two weeks after she was gone,
suddenly clutch at the weight
slamming into his chest as
if embracing it, like that
Greek who clung to his boulder,
who stuck to the struggle of
his stone because, like moss, he
couldn't live without it. But
you knew where this story was
going already, didn't you?

Copyright © 2006 Alice Friman All rights reserved
from Margie
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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