Back to Issue Twenty-Seven.

The Husband As Mentalist


Think of a number.
            Hold in your mind the age you were
when you first realized
                  your body couldn’t be trusted
to take care of you.
                      Maybe the first kiss, that boy
with a penknife, or maybe
              what came after.
                            Maybe it was bleeding
every month and then the month you didn’t.
                                              Or the running
                       leap and the short fall marked,
the pebble gravel spraying.
Or the bike tumbling
                              into the ditch and the long gash
                              in the leg’s meat.
The moment can vary.
The tells don’t.
                       The way your mouth moves
                       and I follow.
How you toss
your hair, as if to say,
                          just get on with it.
But waiting
is something I’d like
                             to teach you, just like I’d like
to teach you how to touch without touching,
             how I know
         which door you’ll walk through
                                      before you do,
the way you sweeten your coffee
                                       until it’s syrup.
Lying is wrong, and so I always tell you
the truth
about why you want
the things you want.
                        The easiest thoughts to find
                    are the ones that mean
               something, if only to you.
When you got up from that ditch
                 your sock was red with blood.
You walked home
               because you knew
                no one was coming, and the cars passed
with their bright headlights,
                      en route to warm houses
              where mothers pick up on the first ring
                      and fathers carry
                    girls with scraped knees home.
Maybe you didn’t know
                 your own number and that’s why
           no one answered.
It was nothing, you say,
                  but nothing is also a number.

Rebecca Hazelton is the author of Gloss (University of Wisconsin Press, 2019), Fair Copy (Ohio State University Press, 2012), and Vow (CSU Poetry Center, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, the New Yorker, and Best American Poetry.

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