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January 22, 2010 by · No comments

Christina Lovin

Photo: clspeace

“A woman without humor is a lost woman.” Djuna Barnes

Nellie wore Slightly Wicked cologne—
the bottle shapely, a deep shade of rose:
that blush from a woman who understands
the bawdy joke, the double entendre—
a knock off ordered from catalogs of household
supplies—brushes, brooms, dust mitts, cleanser—
and delivered by a traveling salesman.
Did he sit there at her sunny table
drinking coffee, nibbling at her cookies?
Would he have smiled at her? She him? So far
from town where her husband struggled
with a wrench, soaked in sweat
and grease, the brash women flaunting their charms
on calendars pinned to auto shop walls
wearing dark ink bikinis and lead gray peignoirs
she had drawn over perfect breasts and perky nipples
to spite her husband and the grimy men
who checked oil, filled radiators, and
lubricated the wheels of the townsfolk.

There is nothing much to tell
of their early years, only a few photos
remain: Buck, lean and tall, leaning
against a fence in black and white,
a pipe to his lips. She, a young woman
dressed in flapper gear—cloche hat
pulled tight over bobbed hair, jazz dress,
turned down stockings—posed
against a summer’s trellis heavy with
blooming clematis. Nellie at 29—scandal
the one easy thing for a woman
back then: a young divorcee, marrying
an even younger man. Her prettiness mature,
almost amused, her feet set solidly aground.

In her failing years, she knew death to be
as certain as the final breath he had breathed
in their bedroom that last night: turning back
from the window she had lifted open
at his request she saw that he was gone,
knew she would follow him, but in her own time.

From then, each time she felt a palpitation
of her unsteady heart, she calmly bathed,
donned her prettiest negligee. Slipped
out on the porch to lounge on the glider,
waiting for death to step lightly through fields
of fescue and foxtails in the valley
along Spoon River, up the hill and past
the cows barn to claim her. She was found,
not on the farm, but propped up
in a hospital bed, a muslin gown and cawl
of an oxygen tent shrouding the rigor
of her body. Those gray eyes wide open
as if to witness the finder’s surprise. The last laugh
and a smear of Fatal Apple clinging to her lips.

Categories: Frontpage · poetry


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