The Ex

For reasons unknown or semi-known or not wanting to be known
my ex-wife is back in town. “Ex” meaning exactly what you think
when you think of that word. She’s a good egg in her own
tenement to middle class but aspiring to upper-middle class and
just about there unlike me kind of way. She’s tall and thin and blonde
and given to the fluttery greeting, the witty anecdote,
the sudden outrage at sport utility vehicles and declining air quality,
America’s increasing reliance on third-world sweatshop labor.
She believes in what we all believe in, give or take a metaphysical
position here or there, the existence of extra-terrestrials,
the relentless infallibility of National Public Radio.
She even questions the idea of belief, my ex-wife does,
while simultaneously pushing the necessity for “sustaining fictions,”
and a “really good Chardonnay, not too oaky, with just a hint
of apple.” The last thing she wants is to seem a caricature,
a fear this speaker does not share, though he will
acknowledge his previous dishonesty and admit
to his lifelong bachelorhood and the need to
however imperiously inhabit the great big world of as if-dom,
as if the imagination were some new Home Depot and he had
the dibs on all the good tools, instead of it being the historical construct
arising out of the formation of the capitalist state
in the late 17th–early 18th century that we all know it is,
where he is forced to take the advice of his now ex-ex, as humiliating as that may be.
He lives a limpy little life with a used ferret and tattered dictionaries,
random plates of half-eaten grilled cheese sandwiches,
the sadness of a one-cup coffee maker bubbling away.
Sadness! Oh polyvalent, polymorphous, Keatsian blue
complicated companion! Sadness that he can’t have the real ex-wife
of his imagination only the post-romantic, pre-whatever comes next
made up one that now seems as delicious as it does... well, I’ll say it,
cartoony. I can write that because it’s my poem,
(third person nothwithstanding)
and as my students might say, if I were a teacher of poet students
at an exclusive Northeastern liberal arts college, “I can write whatever I want.”
Wanting can be so overdone, I’d warn my never were students,
especially in “boy” poems, as my former ex might have said, scornfully,
those paeans to desire and male bourgeois anxiety
and shifting selfhood so popular these days,
the ones claiming to be here and not here at the same time,
as if they were written out of this frippy blue nowhere
or somewhere equally unreal, claiming this and claiming that.
I’d tell my students to forget about love and poetry
and ex-wives who may or may not be what they seem.
I’d tell them all kinds of things.

Chris Semansky | Mudlark No. 20
Contents | The Real Life of Piggies