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Looking Back


A fist through the pane of our picture window and everything
broken between us. The ancient glass shattered, and my wife

rose from her separate bed wanting to know what happened.
But how could I explain the radiator's cracked gasping that

kept me from sleep, the secret life, how I had taken up
smoking just for the excuse of some small heat, and then tonight

when the winter-warped window would not lift, how I let loose that
helpless hook? Wind flowed through the room, blowing white

across the column of snow still pillared against the screen.
She crossed the freezing tile toward my silence and held my hand

now sequined with shards lodged deep in the chapped knuckles.
And, Jesus, how easily she massaged each piece of glass

from the skin, applying the sting of iodine with a swab as if
to bring back every feeling. But when she unrolled the gauze

like a sacred scroll and wrapped my hand in it, I had to turn to her,
had to touch her flushed, half-feverish cheeks once more.

I had to trust those clear streaks cutting tracks down her face
were more than simply the tricks of weak streetlight trying to shine.

Never mind that kind of turning back has always been
punished. Didn't Lot too, just once more, want not only to look

back, but also to return to the arms of his lost wife, that
metaphorical salt? Didn't he want one more kiss, one last taste

to see him through the rest of that endless desert, now alone?


James Crews

The Book of What Stays
University of Nebraska Press


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