Married, Filing Separately
was always our tax status. There's no lovein money. Sometimes there's no love in love.Sometimes love is a fish-gillslit in your heart through which you learnto breathe. That's how it was.When I found the long silver hooksof another woman's earringsin his bathroom drawer, I raisedan eyebrow. I said, "Oh." Sometimesa waterspout rises from the lake or twistsfrom the sky to its surface, and afterthis column reaches land with its silvery skin,the trees it's touched look like they've beenthrough a blender. That's how it was.Day after day, I learned to empty myselfinto the basins of another's need. At night,driving through the Poconos, you might seeno more road beyond the bend you're rounding.At night, at home, you might hear the steadydrip of resentment's leaky taps. I drovetwo thousand miles each month to my jobbecause of love. Sometimes marriageis like that. Sometimes it's the sugar substitutehe spilled daily on the kitchen counter, its littlepackets crusted to a ring of cream. Sometimesmarriage is the hallucination of a dead baby sealon the side of the highway. "And how woulda seal wind up in the mountains," he said."How indeed," I said, willing by then to believeor disbelieve anything. The accountant seemedconfused the first time we said we wantedto file taxes that way. It's the loans, weexplained. Blah blah blah. Still, the separatenessfelt symbolic. The student loans were his,were bottomless. I threw my money into them tooand thought this was love. Amelia's earringshad silver leaves and teardropsof cubic zirconia. I knew her namebecause of Facebook. "I was lonelywhen you were away," he said. "She only came overto show me some yoga and smoke some pot."I looked at the wall above his headand said, "Oh," and what I meant wasdead baby seal, ribboned trees. What I meantwas the till is empty—I have no more dollars left to give.
Copyright © 2022 by Claire McQuerry.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Claire McQuerry’s poetry has appeared in Tin House, Poetry Northwest, Waxwing, Fugue, The Gettysburg Review, The Cincinnati Review, and other journals. Her poetry collection Lacemakers (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012) won the Crab Orchard First Book Prize and was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. She is an Assistant Professor at Bradley University.
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