Wednesday, May 18, 2011

359. Husbands and Wives

A husband doesn’t know
on his own what he is
or where he has to go,
he must be taken by
the hand and pulled or
gently guided into place,
given a shovel or a
hammer, and be told
to make and what to
make, for he is a human
machine, something
that runs when turned
on, something that stops
when off, and if you look
at one closely when he
sleeps, you will see
that he breathes in
through his mouth
so that he can swallow
all the words you whisper
to him at night, and so
he will know what to do,
what to say, who he is.

A wife I needn’t say
anything about for you
are one, and grand
at it, take the husband
by the hand and tell
him what you are, for
that is the only way
he will know (I know:
I am one; we exist,
we live, we extend our
tiny selves into the
unwieldy future, but
we do not understand
what swirls around us,
something that might
be air, or jelly, or a
small child, fingers
sticky with melted
chocolate, and waving
through the air, as if
the flag of some great
nation, a stick ending
in a pink pompom of
cotton candy, sweet
enough to rot the teeth
out of the tike’s mouth).

It smells like rain now,
because it is raining,
and I can smell the rain
when it is raining, and
only then, because I am
a husband, so I perceive
the obvious but miss
all details, I am a man
and my tendency is to
wait until the fact of
the earth proves its
ineluctable presence,
I believe only in that
that is so obvious I can
not forget it and that
that a wife tells me is
so, in this way I know
the difference between
varieties of forks, the
names for different
fabrics, and this is why
I have the vague sense
that there is a name
for different kinds of
plaid, and I think that
if I were a good husband
I would carve fenceposts,
paint them white and
plunge them into the
ground so that I could
say, “Here is the edge
of my world. I will stay
on one side of the fence
or the other so that I do
not sleep between two
worlds and become
forever lost and alone.”

When you have, next
week, a birthday on
the day before I turn
51, you may take
a moment to look around
at your world and your
husband, and you will
find him well and you
will think him at least
satisfactory, but probably
better, and you will
tell him that the day is
your birthday and that
you will be expecting
the sort of attention
that a woman should
be given on a birthday,
and maybe the rain
will have stopped by
then, and maybe the sun
will have come up, and
the world might be warm
with sunlight, because
it is your birthday, and
you will look at your
husband and you will
ask him how the day
had become so beautiful
so suddenly after so much
rain coming down and
steady for so long, and he
will look at the sky, and
he will think about that
for a long time, and then
he will say, but slowly,
because he is a man,
that it is sunny, that the
sun is shining because
it is your birthday, May
the 24th, the birthday
of wives everywhere.

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