So it is true that nothing
is free. One night of not-
well-enough-protected sex had me,
three hundred dollars later,
up on the table. C. stayed at home
with the children. We’ve been
in similar situations. There was
the doctor, tall, old enough
to be my father, telling the nurse
what to tell me. Then there was
that rich, sudden smell, and I knew
what that was. When I was
home again the sun was milk,
the sky was blue, and I lay back
among the cushions. There were
the crimson lips of our two children
kissing me from out of all that air.
Let me remind you there were days
we had nothing. And the other days:
comparing, figuring, weighing
between two hands which it would be—
one or the other. The days when
there were no cares, our pockets
would be full, the children gliding
on the metal cart as if on skis.
The cold air on a summer day:
we’d be transported. Certainly
this was not the world we knew
and lived on. It was a brief and
transitory visit. Then it was me
counting out the money, the dollar
bills, the coins, receiving that
politeness from the anonymous girl,
the cash register drawer snapped shut
that to us was the final goodbye.
You could argue that it is
all too much. But I think of it
as what we can get away with.
The rain falling heavily on
the hung-out clothes, the decision
to spend an afternoon making love,
the effects of drinking wine
over dinner with friends. We have
overburdened ourselves, but we think:
it is our choice, we understand
the hidden costs. But without choice
the transactions continue,
we find ourselves included without
needing to participate.
It is May and the vegetation stinks
with its rapid growth. That smell
is the ferns stretching out of
their fiddleheads. It is too much.
We think we are lucky to be here.
C. does the driving most times
which leaves me opportunities.
The bridge looming, up above,
merging lanes of traffic, other
faces bored through window glass,
all presenting the enormity
of possibilities, the myriad choices,
responses, reflections. We’ve
traveled hours to visit my family,
our family, from the quiet countryside,
now at the gates to the city.
We fit into these slots that once
we pay feed us in, not singly but
by the hundreds. C. asks if we have
exact change, and I, not driving,
rummage through the places to look.
Somehow it matters. The silver
filling my hand. The moment when
I know if it does or does not add up.