Today's poem is by Victoria Chang
The Professor's Lover
Dogs barking, wind blowing, how I never get
used to wind blowing, how I can never make
the wind mine, it just goes through me. Trees
spackled us with shadow and everything was still
okay. Strike that. Reverse it. The trees became
more specific. And suddenly, the wind clubbed
against me like a clapboard. You heard. People do
this. People collide like sex. You told me what
you heard. I repeated his name quietly. I repeated
her name loudly. And his wife suddenly had no name.
She became a gabled roof with a rusted antenna,
she watched them inside lathering each other,
holding the bar of soap up to the moonlight.
I took a wrong turn. Here I am at another
poetry reading. The beams above don't look
like stars. They are rotting wood beams.
Professor X opens and closes his mouth.
There's a light that halos around his head and
a podium he clutches like a drink. But I am not
listening. I am thinking of what you just told me.
I am thinking of him again. And his wife. And
the child. There is always a child. I remember
one summer. We sat in the little blue café.
He said: I miss my wife. I imagined him biting
a wife's neck, kissing her with his eyes closed.
And I stared into those fierce eyes.
The laundry room was just a laundry room.
Where clothes beat against each other.
But I missed the point, always missed the point,
always have to be told. A laundry room
is not just a laundry room. A man is not
just a man. A young female student is not
just a young female student. Who is up from
a night of dancing on wooden floors. Up from
too many dizzy drinks. So she pulls the old
married professor into the laundry room,
he doesn't pull away, and she cleans his mouth
with her lips and tongue, and their bodies beat
into each other, fold, collapse.
Two eyes and a heart don't add up to human.
In my latest dream, the telephone had replaced
the heart and it rang and rang but I couldn't
pick it up. In class, I stared at her bare back and
knew that he had run his pink fingers across it.
Had cried in its winding tunnels. Her back, his tears,
the garden where his wife pulled up weeds each year,
the fireworks, the fish in the river. How can they
not be aligned? Walking back from the party,
I stopped in the middle of the dark dead road,
and watched two shadows come out. Then
disappear. Then two more. You tell me. People
do this. People pair up. That's fine for now.
A hind limb, an eye, apparitions appear and
disappear, cicadas stick and unstick, shout
in unison on all sides of this narrow Tennessee
road. It is anguish not to see them, to know that
at once, they can lower themselves onto me and
do what they will, kick me with their boot-
like legs, stamp me out. Go ahead, come down
from the thicket of trees and wag your legs
at me. You will all die brittle. But what is that
through the trunks? A white cross as large
as a farmhouse. Even the cicadas stop their
factioning. What have I done? I begin to see the
morning's failure, the cicadas' failure, my failure.
If I take off my eyes and give them to you,
will you take them? I want to tell you without
having to confess anything, without having
to tell you about the men that have passed
through my mind just this morning. Imagine
them. Imagine their hair pressed down with
my hands. Am I guilty if I stand behind
the window and look? If I only desire to bloody
my fist? If my mirror holds a thousand tides?
I try, I do. I try and try. But there are the dreams.
There are these mornings. This road. The cross.
The empty benches before the cross. The cicadas
that eventually must land.
Copyright © 2006 Victoria Chang All rights reserved
from New England Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission
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