Poetry

Things to Take

I went over the list again and again,
on the long drive out to the home
I’d left such a short time ago.
I rehearsed my performance,
illusory strength I knew I’d need,
for this one last meeting, this
necessary gathering over some
physical property. I entered

not wanting to stay a moment longer
than necessary, not wanting any debate,
any negotiation, any volatile atmosphere
our sparking emotions could ignite.
Just take what I had to have, reveal nothing,
draw my lips tight, not engage, all said
and no reason to say any of it again.

This mask, that book, the small TV.
“No, keep the scrapbook. I have pictures.”
This painting, that bowl. I know we
both bought the Turkish rug. Stays here.

“Is that all you want?” you said,
but I didn’t bite. You sat with your
back to me, playing some computer game,
watching me with the back of your head.
“I think that’s it,” I said, “I’m leaving.”

And it all fell apart, first a pale pleading
that soon became an awful wail, the sky
shattered, the why howling up toward
an uncaring moon, you slid from your chair
to your knees, tears now a flood, your
whole body a trembling ruin, and I stood,
knowing that this was where I came to you,
wrapped you in my arms, put the world
back together again, and nothing changed.

“I’ve taken all I can,” I said, and picked up
the freighted box, turned from the anguish
and walked out the door, leaving many
small objects: my heart, lost pride, some shirts.