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CIRQUE

practicing iconoclast, my lover teaches undergraduate classes in philosophy at the determinedly secular State University. He claims no particularly impressive credentials to teach such a subject but holds degrees from obscure Midwestern colleges, one in philosophy and another in the literature of ancient civilizations that had foundered upon the shards of broken idols. At the close of the Korean Conflict he authored a slim volume of bitter poetry which was well received by the ladies of the Richmond District literary Society and panned by the State Commander of the VFW as subversive. This irretrievable statement of such purposeful years remains an embarrassment to him. I do not know why I have a lover. Or perhaps I should say I do not know of any specific dislocation of my days to assign this fact. Unless it was the inevitable coming to an intersection, like the dorsal and lateral joining of the lines that formed the tail of my childhood fish. My marriage has reached the comfort and vague kindness of habit. The girls are in that state of marginal—perhaps nonexistent—virginity, and are old enough to appreciate the abundance of freedom granted by a happy ignorance of teleological niceties. And young enough not to resent this ignorance. My mother progressed to a premature senility where she didn’t care one way or the other and in January we placed her, un- complaining at last, in a guiltabsolvingly expensive nursing home. A year ago today, she made moot the point by dying in sudden but painless arterial embarrassment. The butcher sent a Woolworth’s card spelling out in silver tracings With Sincere Sympathy. His signature looked remote.

expanse of bright flesh. This very brightness immerses us in an illusion of purpose. Like a telephoto lens my eyes enlarge his face to a grainy texture, translucent with urgency. His skull appears strangely foreshortened and menacing. I love my husband. He is my refuge, if not my strength. He believes I have a lover, though we do not speak of this. He assures me in terms of certainties, with plans for our daughters’ security when we are dead. The function of our existence is defined in terms of fiduciaries, annuities, executors. In the darkness of our marriage bed, the abundance of his concern envelopes me, and in a reflex of gratitude I open my body to him. In this dialogue of sun and darkness there exists a paradox which pleases me in some manner I do not try to explain. On Friday mornings our butcher supervises the unloading of great refrigerated trucks parked growling and impatient over wilted cabbage leaves and torn cartons in an alley behind the market. His apprentice son mans the counter with knowing eyes and acne, attending to my needs with deft pallid hands. When the butcher grows too old to hoist the great stiff sides of beef onto the hooks in the cold room, the son shall inherit the shop. “Wednesday” was originally published in the first issue of Alaska Quarterly Review, thirty-two years ago.

My lover is Jewish but not kosher. He eats ham, pink in transparent abundance and mounded on dry rye rounds which he offers to me with love-scented hands. “Have some lox and bagels,” he says, laughing and sly. A fable of loaves and fishes. He is my daytime lover. We make love with dazed violence in sunlit rectangles, startled by the Aftermath

Brenda Roper

Cirque, Vol. 7 No. 1  

A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim

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