poem index

Her Body Like a Lantern Next to Me

John Rybicki
            There's this movie I am watching:
my love's belly almost five months 
            pregnant with cancer, 

            more like a little rock wall 
piled and fitted inside her 
            than some prenatal rounding.

            Over there's her face 
near the frying pan she's bent over,
            but there's no water in the pan, 

            and so, no reflection.  No pool 
where I might gather such a thing as a face, 
            or sew it there on a tablet made of water.  

            To have and to haul it away, 
sometimes dipping into her 
            in the next room that waits for me.

                        •

            I am old at this.  I am stretching
the wick again into my throat 
            when the flame burns down.

            She's splashing in the tub 
and singing, I love him very much, 
            though I'm old and tired
 
            and cancerous.  It's spring 
and now she's stopping traffic, 
            lifting one of her painted turtles 

            across the road.  Someone's honking, 
pumping one arm out the window, 
            cheering her on.

            She falls then like there's a house 
on her back, hides her head in the bank grass
            and vomits into the ditch.
	
                        •

            She keeps her radioactive linen, 
Bowl, and spoon separate. For seven days
            we sleep in different rooms.

            Over there's the toilet she's been
heaving her roots into. One time I heard her
            through the door make a toast to it, 

            Here's to you, toilet bowl.  
There's nothing poetic about this.
            I have one oar that hangs 

            from our bedroom window, 
and I am rowing our hut 
            in the same desperate circle.  

                        •

            I warm her tea then spread 
cream cheese over her bagel, 
            and we lie together like two guitars, 
	
            A rose like a screw 
in each of our mouths.  
            There's that liquid river of story 

            that sometimes sweeps us away 
from all this, into the ha ha 
            and the tender. At night the streetlights 

            buzz on again with the stars, 
and the horses in the field  swat their tails 
            like we will go on forever.

                        •

            I'm at my desk herding some 
lost language when I notice how quiet 
            she has been. Twice I call her name  

            and wait after my voice has lost its legs 
and she does not ring back.  
            Dude, I'm still here, she says at last

            then the sound of her 
stretching her branches, and from them 
            the rain falling thick through our house.  

            I'm racing to place pots and pans 
everywhere.  Bottle her in super canning jars.  
            For seventeen years, I've lined  

            the shelves of our root cellar with them.  
One drop for each jar.  
            I'll need them for later.

From We Bed Down Into Water by John Rybicki. Copyright © 2008 by John Rybicki. Used by permission of Northwestern University Press. All rights reserved.

John Rybicki