The Writer’s Wife

after reading Galway Kinnell’s “The Call Across the Valley of Not Knowing”

For years I have imagined that red house, sinking

into the dark earth, and I’ve placed her there,


Kinnell’s first wife, her belly swollen with life.

She reads for the first time his poem about lying together,


two mismatched halfnesses, as her husband dreamed

of another woman, his true half, still moist with youth.


How must she have felt, their second child thrashing

inside of her—did she already agree with him


that her happiness lay in sleep? In dreaming

of lying in some other room, of a less fickle moon?


She must have once gladly held the blossom

of his empty heart, kissed the wound of his mouth


full of poetry, full of nightmares, but how long

could she last when he sliced open the scab


each time the flesh tried to heal, viewed happiness

as blindness already fat and soured by heaven?


How long could anyone? My husband’s patience wans.

I watch for the glowing ember of his cigarette


as he paces outside, surprised each time it reappears.

We cannot blame Aristophanes, Kinnell, only ourselves.


No moon can brighten our nightmares:

writers sinking with our houses, our spouses escaping outside.


Kinnell’s wife tears out the root of her heart, buries

it for earthworms. This darkness closes like a fist.

Carly Gates is a high school English teacher at a school of the arts in South Florida and an MFA candidate at The University of the South’s School of Letters. Her poetry has been published in Hawai’i Review, Steam Ticket, and Flint Hills Review.

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