By Sherman Alexie
How odd to be jealous of one's lover's
Long ago lovers, when one should thank them
For their various failures. And strengths.
And odder, this desire to rank them
As she must rank them, but will never say.
Where is the handsome Christian? Or the one
Who said he wasn't married? Or the short
British man whose parents were far more fun?
And what about the existentialist
Who kissed so well she swooned in the street,
But was far too rational to feel joy?
I celebrate the men who preceded me --
Just as the bank celebrates its debtors --
Because they make me look so much better.
A female fan, upon meeting my wife,
Said, "Oh, wow, you must have a wonderful life
Since you have such a wonderful writer
For a husband. That book, The Fistfighter,
Is so charming. Your husband must be charming, too."
And my wife thought, What a literate fool!
Only the poet's spouse fully learns the truth:
We writers are the worst kind of cruel,
Because we worship our own stories and poems,
And what human can compete with metaphors?
Writers stand still and yet vacate our homes
Inside our fantasies. We are word-whores,
With libidos and egos of balsa wood.
We'd have sex with our books, if only we could.
If I were single, would I be thinner?
Do I overeat because I don't compete
With the flat-bellied bachelors? Or do we
Thick husbands look and feel thicker
Whenever our wives see a slender man?
Or does it matter? Of course, it matters.
I can't stick with any weight loss plan,
And though my extra twenty won't shatter
Any scales, I despise my love handles,
And often feel ugly and obese.
But my lovely wife always lights the candles,
Disrobes, and climbs the mountain called me,
Because wives can love beyond the body
And make mortal husbands feel holy.
Every summer, my wife travels to France
To spend a week or two with her good friend.
Of course, my sons and I welcome the chance
To de-evolve and cave it up, and yet,
I sometimes wish that my wife gave me all
Her love and attention. But it's selfish
To want such devotion. There should be walls
Inside any marriage. My wife can wish
For more privacy and solitude
Without me thinking it cold and rude.
She should have friends I rarely meet,
If ever, and I shouldn't let my needs
Become demands, but when I'm most alone,
I often wish my wife was always home.
To save time, I put the good pots and pans
In the dishwasher and ruined the damn things.
And, once again, my wife can't understand
How thoughtless I can be. And, again, I sing
The same exhausted song: I forgot, I forgot.
When left up to me, the bills go unpaid,
The fruits and vegetables go unbought,
And the master and twin beds go unmade.
Once, when a teacher wondered why our son
Spent so much time lying on the classroom floor,
My wife said, "Because he's seen it often before."
On a basketball court, I will madly run,
But anywhere else, I will use sedate
Opportunities to pontificate.
In the hotel room next to mine, women
Talk and laugh and keep me awake 'til three.
Exhausted and soaked with sweat and venom,
I stare at the walls and think of twenty
Ways to get revenge for their selfish crimes.
At five a.m., as I walk by their door,
I pocket their PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB sign,
And then, from my taxi to the airport,
I ring their room. "Who the hell is this?"
Asks a woman, still drunk and irate.
And I say, "Hey, I just wanted to wish
You a good morning and a great fucking day."
When I tell my wife about my adolescent rage,
She shrugs, rolls her eyes, and turns the page.
Yes, dear wife, we were younger and slender
(And, damn, I had terrible hair and clothes).
Our marriage was new, exciting, and tender.
Naked in front of me, you still felt exposed,
And I had yet to learn how to touch you
Properly. But now, sweetheart, I've memorized
The curves of your breasts, belly, and thighs,
As you've memorized me, and if we do
Each other less often than we should or need,
Then we can blame time's ground and pound
And not the lack of carnality,
Because, D, I still want to lay you down
Hour by hour, and make you cry for more,
As I cry for you, adoring and adored.