The Years I Lived Beneath the Lake
I wandered antique malls where the light was so dry 
you would not have known
I was drowning, and the gloves were small 
and tight and stitched with monograms of strangers, 
and the real-iron irons stuck their stiff
black noses in the air beside my ankles like dogs
and I could say, good iron, good iron,
heel as I moved among them, twenty and married 
and lonely in a way that only objects understood: 
handkerchiefs and tatted doilies and neon
tubes blaring, like trumpets in the ocean, OPEN, 
though it was impossible
to know what the OPENESS belonged to 
except itself or a solid wall or the doll’s
eyes staring sun-burst-
crazed at dust motes. 
What did I want? Stillness and a handwritten price,
though I never bought anything; 
poor and scared of my life 
rubbing off on them: these objects that existed
perfectly without me: the brown swan ashtray floating
in its own dark glaze; the cherry-poxed bread box; 
the pedestaled glass cake plate’s
caustic of green light beneath itself: one inedible 
wedge of hunger
that would fade when the lights switched off,
then return again. The mannequins blinking,
necklaces slung around their narrow necks 
harmlessly. Here there were no backstories at all. 
The clean-cracked, glue-ridged pitcher 
with its discount sticker: numbered 
by some dull Midwestern God who’d laid aside the chaff 
from other chaff: each assigned its proper, jumbled 
stall. I’d come days I was depressed, he was 
depressed, we were fighting, he had hit me, my body
on the couch with its stiff brown pillows that had been
there when we moved in, that were ours now
somehow. Here: ruffle-edged lampshades and wash-
boards and gloves scorched at the tips by fire
or what was maybe only dirt. No one had driven through
this traffic light propped on its side, unlit, maybe
unlightable. No one living wore such pleated skirts. 
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