None of this Sounds Quite Right

None of this Sounds Quite Right
by Aida Raphael
This is the third poem I’ve written today.
That isn’t true.
This one isn’t written yet.
I’ve kept your toothbrush next to mine,
where you left it,
all used up.
I see it every morning and
every night and
it has no songs to sing to me.
It just sits there–
it’s a toothbrush, after all.
I haven’t brushed my teeth with it,
if you’re wondering.
Whatever bits of you on it
were left
are buried under too much air and dust.
It’s only a toothbrush, after all.
I do spray my pillow with your perfume–
the almost-empty bottle you left behind.
And, of course, I use it sparingly.
When I’ve finished it
I’ll have to think of something else
to hide my skin’s betrayals in.
It’s just a fragrance, after all.
I’ve stopped trying to write
poems to keep our degenerate pain alive.
This one doesn’t count.
This one isn’t written yet.
I’ve turned our only photograph
over on its face.
Sure, I need a watcher to stay alive,
but your likeness can neither judge
nor pine
nor reach out
up-turned palms filled with
fairly adequate delight.
I’ve kept the house the way you left it.
When you come back I don’t want you to feel lost.
(We’ve come and gone so often,
the walls no longer know how to behave around us–
so they’ve taken to playing word games with the past.)
One day,
when I write this poem,
I will send you a photograph of your toothbrush
still existing next to mine.
And I will expect my wordless missive
to convey to you,
“Come home.”
And you will call it poetry
and you will choose again
to remain my ever-patient victim
and alone.

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