I will leave him.
In a house where we lounged on sun-washed Sundays,
laughed, dreamt, his hand cupped
over my belly’s empty home, I will leave him.
In our living room, it will happen like this: my coming out
like the night sky tearing, and when I reach for him
across the shredded air, he will turn away,
shout for me to go, and I will leave.
I will leave him. Leave the house, our bed, the rocking
chair, his yell coupling his pain to my body so that each time
I hear freight cars collide and moan in the train yard,
that night and its broken pieces pierce my belly.
It will happen like this. I will tell him. I will
hurt him. He will tell me to leave, and I will.
When She Tells Me
This is when she doesn’t.
Not while I sprinkle cayenne onto the chick peas
as she bubbles over about goldfinch at the feeder,
Not as the sun slants onto the coffee table
and she hits play on the DVR, iPads in our laps,
Not before her evening bath. Not even when she comes
to bed as I vie to stay awake for one more page.
No. Instead, it is minutes before midnight. Thursday.
I lean into her, drift toward sleep, her skin fragrant, warm.
But then like on those mornings when the garbage truck
blocks the driveway just as I’m backing out for work,
she tells me how disappointed she was Tuesday night
when I said I’d read her latest draft this weekend.
When I offer to read it tomorrow, that’s wrong
too. How can I be not fast enough—and too soon?
I sit up, thumbs crunched white against the page. She turns
to her screen, fist pulsing on the sheet between us.
Cicada-cries rise through the closed window. Years ago,
solo again but stubbornly hopeful, I prayed for a woman
who believes change is possible, works for justice, wants it—
now. This urgency comes with the answering. Slow
breath fills my belly, lungs. Above the cicadas’ thrum,
she wishes aloud that she’d waited to tell me. I vow
to read her story in the morning. Her hand opens.
In nature journaling
it is in the third act of looking that we begin to see
more clearly, the instructor says.
When I sketch a tree peony, it is the tight bud on the bush I see first, then rain
lingering on the leaves like moonstones adorning so many outstretched hands.
Third time I notice how freckles speckle the bud, crimson veins stripe the stems,
the way branches undulate in the breeze, raised arms swaying in wordless praise.
So it is with you.
When I glance up from the hymnal, I see you standing before the congregation, firm,
then watch as your gaze sweeps across our faces like sunlight spreading along dune grass.
Later, as I wait for a friend to introduce us, my cheeks warm, I notice how
you are planted, stance steady, wide, see those copper highlights in your hair as you
lift your hand toward mine.
Wendy DeGroat is a poet, librarian, and teacher who curates poetryriver.org, a resource site for documentary poetry and diverse voices in contemporary American poetry. She teaches creative writing workshops and writes articles that encourage inclusion of contemporary poetry in classrooms and libraries. Her poems have appeared in Sprout, About Place, Trivia: Voices of Feminism, Mslexia, and Raleigh Review. She lives in Richmond, VA.