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FIVE POEMS / James McMichael She's at the mirror. I need to get behind it to the aspirin, do so, close it. "Goodness you wake up with a lot of headaches." "Sorry." "Don't be sorry, I'm sorry for you." Surprised that it turned out like that, and hating her, hating what I'd heard in my own voice, I get out of her way. From the privacy of brooding on it in another room, I hear what she meant: "Congratulations. As good as you are at headaches, why settle for so little, why not work up a malignancy of some kind?" And I remember that yesterday, when we were getting in the car, she winced. She's always twisting her neck or back or something, so I didn't ask her "Did you hurt yourself?" but "Did you hurt yourself again?" The Missouri Review · 25 Impatience, most of all. She tells me that what she wants when she's impatient with me is that I be patient. Why am I so upset? Maybe because it's time to be upset, how should I know, "I can't stand the way these fuckers drive their cars." She tries not to watch me, has been seeing me rave like this for twelve years and still isn't used to it. I'm cooler now and look over at her. Wanting to see at least the disguise of a smile, I put my hand on her leg. She goes on looking straight ahead at nothing, keeps it up for another ten minutes. Domestic farce. Filler. Too little of the exceptional in what we do from day to day as the same two people. She knows me too well, each of us knows too much about the other. Impatient for some change in the other's nature that we think won't come, we pout and blow up, dissemble, vex, forgive, go on with it into the next instances of our wishing we lived alone. 26 · The Missouri Review James McMichael I want her sense of me to be wrong, want there to be more than she sees, or something better, she reminds me too much of what I can't do. The way she has of being right about me is power. I can tell she thinks I'm distant. I won't give in, I'll prove to both of us that I'm not. Talking will distract her. I don't force it, don't try to sound too cheery. But I'm telling her things I wouldn't have—I'm saying them badly, distantly, maybe even on purpose. She asks me "Is it me?" "No." "Then what?" "Nothing." And I haven't lied, it's nothing, only power. James McMichael The Missouri Review · 27 She likes to be out. Because he keeps us in more, I help with the baby. She goes out but wants me to go with her. Though I go sometimes and like it, I'm sure that she's insatiable, she's sure that I'm not liking it enough, and it stays that way. The rest of the time is mine, the time my writing takes becoming proper to me, another of my properties, like my cold hands. I remind her that my work's no fun. She hadn't forgotten, she says, and neither am I. It isn't a writer's line, but I say it. "You want me to be someone I'm not." "You want me to be someone I'm not and I'm being that person." 28 · The Missouri Review James McMichael Three years not so much of squabbles as of routine. Her days in the library, mine at school and at home. Owen is four. We see friends for dinner sometimes, talk on the phone to other friends too far away. We go to Idaho in the summer. I feel my life is safe because she loves me. We'd been asleep, twelve years ago, when the call came about my father. I went downstairs to answer it, came back, her face asking me who was it and I told her what. Then her "No...

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