Posts Tagged ‘marriage’

You Say You Love a Wife Beater Divorced Three Times

August 20, 2018


The saber still rises through the air
in the memory of his third wife
as he chases her from their house
and two blocks down the street.

There he collapsed and you found him,
crying and impotent,
a little boy with a thin wet beard.
So you took him home.

You hung his saber as a decoration
above your sofa.
Each night you rocked and sang
him to sleep.

But he has grown stronger
and he no longer cries and pleads.
He pushes you out of your bed.
Shouts summon you in the night.

One day you return to find
the saber vanished from the wall.
Out back you watch him practice
on the saplings in your yard.

Once a woman who had lost her child
found a baby wolf and brought it home.
She didn’t think of pain
until the teeth began to nurse.


First published in Kansas Quarterly.


Strangler Vine in Onset, MA. Family Photo from Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Strangler Vine in Onset, MA. Family Photo from Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Second Wife

February 21, 2018


The bride greets her husband’s children
at their door

The husband hands each child a lily
He hands the bride hard candy
He folds his arms as they exchange
these gifts

The wife will make dinner
while the children play
The children will wash dishes
while the wife sews


First published in Mostly Maine.


Fenced Yards - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Fenced Yards – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Her Brother’s Debt

February 19, 2018


Owing his widowed foreman a great debt,
the brother brought his sister overseas.
She came mute, her thoughts folded
     in her bags.
At breakfast she listened like a table
     to their sounds. 

She married with his dishes in the sink. 

She has unleashed the foreman’s toddler
     from the line.
She has taught the foreman’s son to sing,
his oldest daughter to braid her hair,

and the foreman to snore gently
through her dreams.


First published in Chants.


Dreams - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Dreams – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Breathing: A Poem for Saint Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2018


An animal sleeps beside me in the dark
Its breathing swells the sheets
It turns and nuzzles the pillow
Then the rhythm resumes
When I take its paw the fingers close
We breathe into the night


 First published in Cottonwood (formerly Cottonwood Review).

photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer. Bride & Groom at the Goddard Mansion in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

Suddenly They Appeared – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer. Bride & Groom at the Goddard Mansion in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.



“E” Is for Enough

December 20, 2017

It’s like I was explaining to Vera on the way home from Biddeford. “E” on the gas gauge stands for “enough.” When the needle falls below E, you don’t have enough. That’s when you stop for gas.

Vera was quiet for a minute. Then she asked, “Did you pay the auto club?”


Say what? - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

Say what? – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer


An Unsettling Day at the Store

September 15, 2017

An unsettling day at the store. I was making jokes like usual, but no one was smiling. Like when you are reminiscing to you wife about some really fun thing the two of you did years ago. But she gets quiet and seems to be listening too closely. And you think, oh wait, who was I with?


Mike's Truck Starting a Long Decline - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

Mike’s Truck Starting a Long Decline – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

The Widow Battinelli

June 19, 2017


Father Lucarelli consoles me, my speech
falters. Black veiled ladies bring by a meal,

offer to pray with me for his soul, to beseech
God. I tear their prayer card as I kneel

next to Cosmo’s photograph on a pool of lace.
At night, I open the urn by the bed,

scoop cold ashes to smooth across my face.
Our cat circles and cries for the dead,

the familiar lap in the empty chair.
Cosmo’s silver watch beats distressed,

the weight of sixty years I bear.
Coarse links chafe against my breast.

Pregare Dio!” the black veils drone.
My faith gone dry as ash and bone.


Copyright © 2017 by Alvera Lisa Smetzer

Angel of Strength - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

Strength – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

I Leave at Dusk under Threat of Rain

June 4, 2017


Behind me, the disordered duplex,
our tiny yard, its iron fence.
And my wife, who is also leaving,
for someplace we have never been
and will never be together.

Walking out is free air and adventure.
Only when my feet stop am I afraid.

I am catching the bus to my future.
Later, sitting for days as the bus
moves through rain and sun and rain,
my eyes bump down rows of wary faces,
our lips pursed, sour as our feet.


Copyright © 2017 by Michael B. Smetzer

Swimmers, Acrylic Painting on wood by Mike Smetzer

Swimmers, Acrylic Painting on wood by Mike Smetzer

Mr. Richards and Cora

May 26, 2017


A Sunday couple in a front pew.
Mr. Richards sat full face to the sermon,
aware of the girls batting eyelashes
toward his designer collars,
his careful graying hair. He walked
among us, distant and slightly amused.
Cora paled beside him, forgotten,
like some pressed flower,
like a plaque honoring a career goal
he once set and met.

With colleagues at his club,
he tasted the steward’s Beaujolais,
the chef’s steak bordelaise,
its flavor rich from the marinade,
Crème brûlée with his evening coffee.
In the kitchen at home she
crumbled cornbread into beans,
her mother’s scarf tightened
around her forehead
like a truss.

When Cora visited his office,
Mr. Richards asked her to type.
She settled in, like an oyster
growing pearls. She opened
the clogged arteries of his files,
warmed his clerks and his clients
to smiles. Now she is the candle
at his corporate lunch,
its honey glow, the halo
he always wanted for his crown.


Copyright © 2017 by Michael B. Smetzer

Swimmers, painting by Mike Smetzer

Kitchenette with Cable

May 17, 2017


All night, mindful and listening,
I kneel before the mute TV’s light,
contemplating the snow between channels,
my lips reciting the mantra of my Frigidaire.
Three states away, you are indexing
ten years of your diaries for my sins,
cropping my image from family albums,
stacking all I left for the Salvation van.

Passing trucks tremble my walls to ecstasy.
Oh look outside!
Illuminated waste bins wake up enlightened,
beneath long-necked halogen lights,
hopeful young Buddhas, shining compassion!
compassion! compassion!
down dreary interstate byways.

I know I failed. I am sorry!
I want to come home!
I know you know I will fail again.
The egoist sage Yang Chu
would not pluck a hair
to save his troubled world.
I offer all my hair to you tonight
in this kitchenette with cable.

Copyright © 2017 by Michael B. Smetzer