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Peace

Leslie Ullman
Keep your voice down, my husband
hissed this morning across his plate,
then knotted his tie
to a fist that would hold
all day. Wedged in our thin 
walls against the silence of neighbors
we haven't met, I folded
my napkin, shoved the last word
back in my throat
and later jogged extra laps
as though my feet could make
some mark on firm ground,
could make everything clear.
I remove my damp
sweatclothes, shivering now 
in the best boutique I can find.
An older woman shrugs out of a fur 
soft as fog and gathers up jade, silver,
apple-green silks, all hushed
and viciously expensive.

She wraps herself in a gown
the color of doves, a shadow body
that follows no husband. I'm sure their house
holds a room where she dreams, 
sends letters, while someone downstairs
seasons the greens and filets
and a reasonable hunger warms her like firelight.
If her children should quarrel
on the darkening lawn she drifts outside
to soothe each with a story, her voice adding
girth to itself like the wine,
open, breathing by his plate.

I want to ask for my size
in a gown like hers. I want to fill
a gown with breasts like hers, and move
through our rooms like a boat
through any water. I finger aqua silk 
made for real hips and shoulders
I, too, could have after twenty seasons--

it turns a whole room blue
where I enter myself as I dress,
where my garments turn overhead light
back on itself like fine paintings.
Downstairs he slices meat striped with fat
and pink flesh, while I finger each 
pearl on the choker he gave me when money
was tight. The blue folds drift 
over my body, that house
filled with rooms left by daughters
and sons, that house given over
to pale silk and stone, its silence
my secret, my eyes raised
to meet hers in the triple mirror.

From Are You Experienced? Baby Boom Poets at Midlife, edited by Pamela Gemin, published by University of Iowa Press. Copyright © 2002 by University of Iowa Press. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

From Are You Experienced? Baby Boom Poets at Midlife, edited by Pamela Gemin, published by University of Iowa Press. Copyright © 2002 by University of Iowa Press. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Leslie Ullman