If the Girl Never Learns to Cook or Sew

by Sue William Silverman


then the scent of the chlorine seeps beneath the glass
doors into winter.
If dinner simmers
on the stove into summer, spring, fall. If
the stuffed cat remains
by the door across from
the ivory-tipped walking sticks.
If the extravagant
Santas and sleighs and Christmas bric-a-brac plague
empty air that pushes you back
out the door. If the dry
promises erase the words the family
man speaks. . .words lingering
only as long as it takes to say good-bye. This girl,
who slouches on her chair, her single piece of real
estate, not allowed to touch couch or dining room table.
If promises break
with waves across the dunes,
foam at midnight, and as dark.

If the words the girl soughs
aren’t stitched as tightly as crocheted hearts
hanging on the line to dry. If this
girl/woman in mismatched
socks, hair refusing to shrink
into tight gray curls….

If he says no and yes
on the same day, and you drive black
asphalt straight ahead while glancing in the rear-
view mirror. If he’s so clever saying yes and no,
all that remains in your unspoken throat
is maybe. If he laughs and offers one of his canes,
you know damn well you’re walking
alone and forever.

If he deciphers the non-rhymes of language, which you suspect
he will not – then is it this arrow you follow, or that one? If
you knew. . .but you don’t.

If the yesses and noes don’t equal maybe but total zero.
If you turn your head. If he does, too. You’re looking
in opposite directions while stars float
away and sun shatters the sky.

If that’s all you’re getting, girl, and you’re just this side
of running on empty not to know
this, but not lost enough to understand that. If you turn
your head at just the right or wrong moment, but
definitely the wrong
angle and smudge red on his green-shirted heart. If
you worry it’ll be misunderstood: don’t. Because who can see
secret signs you breathe tracing the house?
If you knew the answer to the question, or the key to open
answers to questions not yet asked. . .but you don’t.

Except you do.

SUE WILLIAM SILVERMAN‘s poetry collection is Hieroglyphics in Neon (Orchises Press). She is also the author of three memoirs: The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew was a finalist in Foreword Review’s 2014 IndieFab Book of the Year Award; Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction is also a Lifetime TV movie; and Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs award in creative nonfiction. Her craft book is Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir, and she teaches in the MFA in writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Please visit: www.suewilliamsilverman.com