Believe that each day you wrote me a letter that never arrived: five poems by A.E. Stallings

The Wife of the Man of Many Wiles

Believe what you want to. Believe that I wove,
If you wish, twenty years, and waited, while you
Were knee-deep in blood, hip-deep in goddesses.

I’ve not much to show for twenty years’ weaving—
I have but one half-finished cloth at the loom.
Perhaps it’s the lengthy, meticulous grieving.

Explain how you want to. Believe I unraveled
At night what I stitched in the slow siesta,
How I kept them all waiting for me to finish,

The suitors, you call them. Believe what you want to.
Believe that they waited for me to finish,
Believe I beguiled them with nightly un-doings.

Believe what you want to. That they never touched me.
Believe your own stories, as you would have me do,
How you only survived by the wise infidelities.

Believe that each day you wrote me a letter
That never arrived. Kill all the damn suitors
If you think it will make you feel better.


Fairy-tale Logic

Fairy tales are full of impossible tasks:
Gather the chin hairs of a man-eating goat,
Or cross a sulphuric lake in a leaky boat,
Select the prince from a row of identical masks,
Tiptoe up to a dragon where it basks

And snatch its bone; count dust specks, mote by mote,
Or learn the phone directory by rote.
Always it’s impossible what someone asks—

You have to fight magic with magic. You have to believe
That you have something impossible up your sleeve,
The language of snakes, perhaps, an invisible cloak,
An army of ants at your beck, or a lethal joke,
The will to do whatever must be done:
Marry a monster. Hand over your firstborn son.


Drinking Song

The moon is chalky, white & thin.
The moon is bitter as aspirin.
She drinks it down with a glass of gin.

Clear and strong the moonbeams fall
As the proof of alcohol,
And everything they touch, appall.

But there are stars for all her ills—
A scattering of spilled, white pills.
The glass is sweating as it chills.


Failure

You humble in. It’s just as you remember:
The sallow walls, formica counter top,

The circular argument of time beneath
Fluorescent flickering—doubt, faith, and doubt.

She knows you’ve been to see the gilded girl
Who’s always promising and walking out

With someone else. She knew that you’d return,
With nothing in your pockets but your fists.

Why do you resist? When will you learn
That this is what your weary dreams are of—

Succumbing to Her unconditional love?


The Mistake

The mistake was light and easy in my hand,
A seed meant to be borne upon the wind.
I did not have to bury it or throw,
Just open up my hand and let it go.

The mistake was dry and small and without weight,
A breeze quickly snatched it from my sight,
And even had I wanted to prevent,
Nobody could tell me where it went.

I did not think on the mistake again,
Until the spring came, soft, and full of rain,
And in the yard such dandelions grew
That bloomed and closed, and opened up, and blew.

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Believe that each day you wrote me a letter that never arrived: five poems by A.E. Stallings