from the exercise “Cleave and Cleave” by Carol Muske in The Practice of Poetry
He misspoke the words to the radio’s
song, hoping to elude her stare that burrowed
its way into his skull like a small
mammal. “It’s ‘he tastes like you
only sweeter,’” she corrects, an allusion
wrapped up in allusion:
the song steals lines from
a movie called Closer, itself
based on a play of the same
name; the band stole its
moniker from a made-up
superhero on The Simpsons.
That she is correct is beside
the point. Even with his face focused on
the road ahead—its dimming
away into dusk leading to darkness.
Her smug response
hangs in the air, becomes his
oxygen. He cannot elude the
conversation any longer.
This isn’t working for you
anymore, he bellows suddenly, somewhere
in the valley between questions and
statements. He doesn’t
need to turn to see she’s chewing
her nails to avoid him—the almost
nonexistent sound shudders inside
him like an earthquake. Her fingers
cannot be the only thing he’s shared
those lips with. He cannot magic
away the verbs that have already
become the air above his head.