Married, Filing Separately

Claire McQuerry

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.

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Headshot of Claire McQuerry

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.

Spring 2022

Cincinnati, Ohio

University of Cincinnati

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Rebecca Lindenberg

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Don Bogen

Since its inception in 2003, The Cincinnati Review has published many promising new and emerging writers as well as Pulitzer Prize winners and Guggenheim and MacArthur fellows. Poetry and prose from our pages have been selected to appear in the annual anthologies Best American Poetry, Best American Essays, New Stories from the South, Best American Short Stories, Best American Fantasy, Best American Mystery Stories, New Stories from the Midwest, and Best Creative Nonfiction.

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