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Behind the Door

                    for R.


Letter left in a pocket, strange
earring in a glove compartment—
such simple things—and the world
implodes. Wife rattling around
a house that used to be home,
child staring at her plate, picking
through her peas. The lover lost
without love's current that had
like a river carried him so long:
the sweet rush he'd lived in—
tent in the woods, motels in
how many towns. And, of course,
the unnamed, the dear someone
somewhere sitting by a phone,
daring it to ring. Do not think
I am a stranger to this story:
the promises, the required apologies,
the ritual baring of the jugular.

Oh friend, be warned. The heart
may not stay in storage long,
riding an iron track, obedient
as a shooting-gallery duck.
A heart wants to be used, fed,
nourished on nuzzle and whim,
practicing the skills it's learned
of whisper and cunning. It needs
to believe that on any ordinary night
before the pitiful throbbing stops
and the body—that new amazing toy—
is laid out and displayed like a plastic
floral arrangement, a rocket
will slip in low under the radar,
roaring and flashing lights: the stars'
own emissary. And why, but to test
the line of Do Not Cross, the line
of unprofitable, for the heart is not
mollified by notions of safety nor apt
to thrive on a diet of crackers and milk.
It wants what it wants: what's behind
the door, knowing full well the key
swings on a rope hanging from one's
own neck. That's the place, isn't it?
Such sweet skin, there in the neck's
hollow where she'd lay her mouth,
cupping the pulse as if to drink
and hold inside her all that ecstasy,
that mad hammering before it dies away.


Alice Friman

The Georgia Review

Summer 2012


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