Right after my parents’ divorce,
people blurted the single question
they’d been dying to ask for years.
How’d they last a day?
Great sex, I was tempted to respond,
as if the thought of my sour mother
fondling my father’s new rebellion,
a ponytail, wasn’t joke enough.
I guess long ago they made
each other happy. What a sad
thing to have to guess. Once my mother
spoke of a nightmare in which
she walked to our front door;
in pitch dark, she twisted the knob
and a hand from outside twisted back.
I imagine if I shined a flashlight
on that intruder’s face, I’d see
my ever-frustrated father.
Proximity without loving
was their creed, him plucking
a guitar in a room off the kitchen,
her clicking a noisy blender on,
and so I couldn’t believe it when my father said
Enough after all those nights
he laid in their waterbed, flirting
with escape but drifting nowhere.
—from Rattle #44, Summer 2014
Marianne Kunkel: “My high school English teacher dropped a Marianne Moore poem on my desk after class one day. At the time I liked reading poetry, but it took realizing I shared a name with a famous poet for me to see myself in it. I started writing.” (website)