by Cynthia Roth

Sorting Christmas cards I found Mike Klineís name
and remembered his black hair swaying in a doorway
in the Art and Architecture Building, blending in
with the black curls of his girlfriend in college.
I wanted to be kissed in public that way and soon,

but I was married to the calmest
Southern Gentleman on earth. Men tried:
filled my studio with blooming forsythia,
surrendered books filled with crucial notes,
bought breakfast in the years I was dangerously thin.

In the garden outside Notre Dame I watched
a woman in white jeans part her legs
as her partner pressed his open palm onto her crotch
as though he were holding a tourniquet
while they kissed one anotherís ears, face, mouth. Almost,
this was too much.

Unlike my father and mother
at the kitchen sink, his hand finding her hip at the moment
of her recoil. Aunt Inez told me my parents were crazy
about each other for ten years, then nothing.
I think I know what happened, but I am not sure

what gave at the sandwich shop the day
I kissed a man for twenty minutes while who knows who
came in and out the door. He smelled like rosemary.
I am still recovering. I am trying to dispel the grace those kisses held,
to ignore his calls and the figment of happiness he offers.

Last summer a friend read my poems while
his wife brought out drinks and sat with us.
As we talked about our children she placed her leg
across his lap. He massaged her foot gently like this,
not a showy, territorial gesture, but warm.
Touching her and going about his business.
I want to slip that into every husband's world.
The sandwich man waits. I am sure he will not wait for long.

Cynthia Roth has poems published or forthcoming in Mind the Gap and The Pittsburgh Quarterly. She has completed her first manuscript "Daylight," and recently read her work at Galapagos Art Space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Sallie Logan Library in Murphysboro, IL. She is an MFA student in creative writing at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and was nominated in 2000 for a Pushcart Prize.

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