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Jill Alexander Essbaum

         after Simon Armitage’s “To His Lost Lover”
              Now they are no longer
              any trouble to each other…

And the letter she deigns to write might begin:
Well, Dear, I am drunk again.
Or: Last night, I dreamt I was Magdalene

and you were Jesus Christ.

Or: Isn’t it nice
how we’ve avoided such backbite

betrayals as I’m sure we both once planned
to carry out?
And she could expound
upon this, explaining how the Left Hand

knew not what or who the Right Hand did,
knew not that it hid, clenched like a fist
in his pocket, ever an inch

away from waving goodbye. It wasn’t
anybody’s fault. Our kismets
got crossed, or—shall I muse?—the descant

of our song trailed off and the melody
couldn’t survive on its own.
And her script, sloppy
as gin would admit: Often, I think on you fondly.

But both will confess that the bed they shared was flawed
by frame, by farewell. How well he said
her name when he meant Someone Else, and the hushed,

dim sinning of the linens.
And then,
how it ended.

Still bright in her mind, a sorehead spree
of insult added upon injury.
And, her misery. Nevertheless, her letterhead might read

in twelve point Garamond a fresh nomenclature.
For what he once cut loose, she will have sutured
to another. And really, seeing as they had no future

(did they?), this will sting him, but briefly,
a bee in his boxers, chiefly,
though—and truly—her intent is not to maim. Fifty

years from today, neither will quibble
over how or when at last it came to pass, but will instead recall
with flinching precision how subdermal

like a splinter did they burrow underneath each other’s skin.
And she, she might remember again, but warmly, the dimple in his chin,
and the thin, tinny rasp in his off-guard voice, the backspin

on his tennis serve. His nerve. Or, what noise he made above her,
coming. Or, the haste by which he abandoned her,
going. And yet, there

have been such interim
moments wherein she thinks she catches sight of him
in street-crowds, where she rushes through the bedlam,

calls his name out to a stranger. In a bar
once, as she lingered over Scotch and licked, with her finger
the rim of the glass, she swore

she heard him laughing right behind her. She spun about so quick
she burned her coat on someone’s cigarette. It wasn’t him, but a fragment
of what could have been anyone guised in the scent

of his cologne and the dumb, blunt drone
of that old Ha-ha. Dare she disclose how many phone
calls she aborted half-way through the dial? The gallstone

ache from where her heart ought be but isn’t any more? Or
that hers is become a different heart, a heart of the corkboard
strain? She bobs and floats in a neap tide’s wake. Before,

were we so bedriddenly smitten, we did not quit
the house for thirteen days.
And After? Shit
if I know.
This, will she write bereftly,

for Everything gets ruined in the moonlight,
especially the moonlight
. And she will sign
in her pie-eyed scribble, a surprisingly

barefaced P.S.: As pain is to suffering, sex is to lust,
and what I should not say is what I must.
That I forgot how quickly forgetfulness comes.

Also. I forgot to love.

Jill Alexander Essbaum

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