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Poem-A-Day

Poem-a-Day is the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring over 200 new, previously unpublished poems by today's talented poets each year. On weekdays, poems are accompanied by exclusive commentary by the poets. The series highlights classic poems on weekends. Launched in 2006, Poem-a-Day is now distributed via email, web, and social media to 350,000+ readers free of charge and is available for syndication. For more information about how to syndicate Poem-a-Day, contact poem-a-day@poets.org.

Russian Ending

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, May 23, 2017.
About this Poem 

“It has taken me three years to come to peace with the inciting incident that inspired ‘Russian Ending.’ Some poems are practically too painful to write—which can sometimes turn out to be a recipe for artistic realization.”
—Jerry Williams

Russian Ending

As in some demented romantic comedy,
my wife and I divided the apartment in half.

She took the living room and I took the bedroom.
Bivouacked and bleeding, we waited for the lawyer

to finish the stipulation so we could sign
the pages and crawl away forever.

I lived in her midst like an alien species.
The exclusion zone sizzled like wet lightning

when I whispered to outsiders on the house phone.
Then came the morning of my departure:

I awoke in civil twilight with my wife standing
over me, looking down into my pallid face.

For half a second, I thought she might strike me,
but she grasped my hand and squeezed it goodbye,

an astonishing tenderness glistening in her eyes,
one final gift in all that pain and murderous détente,

all that wailing and mortification of the flesh.
On the way to the gallows of divorce,

she held a merciful cup of clemency to my lips,
and I drank deeply, I drank so deeply

that I forgot what I’d done to deserve her.

Copyright © 2017 by Jerry Williams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Jerry Williams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.