A FLAGRANTLY PESSIMISTIC MISSILE FROM HIS UN-ROSED UN-MISTRESS by Tawni Waters

When he looked at me like that, his wife saw it and said,
“Where did I put the rose you gave me, dear?”
to remind me that, never mind his eyes,
I remain un-ringed, un-rosed.
When I speak of the un-rosed
I’m not speaking of some grammatically incorrect

antithesis to resurrection.

I’m talking about me

sleeping here on this one side of the bed.  Sometimes
I scoot over, fluff up my pillows, re-cradle my head,
reminding myself the whole mattress is mine, has been for a long, long time
but still, ancient mammalian codes die hard.
My body makes room for its mate
as if its mate didn’t choose another bride years ago,
as if I haven’t married loneliness because
never once did I know a lover
that could erase him from my mind

so finally one day I said, “Fine. I’ll be alone.”

I am.

Sometimes his ghost comes to me at night, slides through my blinds,
infiltrates my bed, realigns the spaces in my head
so they fill with his breath.
“Say my name,” he whispers,
and I whimper, “Yes.”
“Close enough,” he laughs,
pressing un-roses between the folds of my brain.
“I love you.”

Yeah, right.

But when I see him in the real world,
his skin burned red by the wind of a winter Monday night,
he whispers something white.  His hot breath hangs
in the frozen air, lingers in the fluorescent light
of a beer sign in a bar window.

I believe him.

I do, as if I were 22, still prone to pretending
love is some sweet short story that ends in a sunset,
and not the very fabric of our long, long lives,
woven from beauty, yes, but tragedy too,
and pain and missteps and mistakes and betrayals
and nights spent dancing drunk with a knife in my hand,
feet slipping, begging me to trip .  “Fall,” they say.
“I already did, all those years ago.  You know that,”
I sigh to my toes, dumb, bald, bland things that they are,
overcompensating, twinkling on the tips,
sparkling like realigned stars, as if someone
suddenly gave a shit about them.

I am the girl

whose toes will remain un-kissed,
will never follow a trail of petals upstairs to a half-full bed.
Half-empty, I am the un-missed un-mistress,
the eternal nocturnal pessimist,
though some nights I can manage to be happy that at least
if I can’t have him there, I’m not enduring
some snoring second-best beast,
a ratty-underwear-sporting
reasonable facsimile of him

as if there were such a thing.
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