No Back Door
Lafayette Wattles

—inspired, in part, by “Errata” by Charles Simic

I try to imagine your surprise
when you escaped
the downpour—after
escaping the home
and the pancake breakfast
as soon as our backs were turned,
ending up two blocks away,
in that specialty shop,
the one you’d shake your head at
every time you’d drive us,
when we were kids,
over the bridge to the supermarket,
and you’d say you didn’t know
what the world was coming to
putting such a place in town,
the one you probably didn’t even remember,
like with us, despite our being
as much you as anyone not you could be,
maybe even more than you were anymore—
and that dark door ding-a-ling-a-linging
when you plunged through,
sopping head to toe,
what shock must have been in those eyes
when you saw the collection
of videos and magazines
with more naked bodies
than those two charred cities
you’d warn us about as boys,
and the owner said you went on
complimenting the feather boa
that slid across her upturned breasts
like the serpent in the apple tree
you were always going on about,
she said it wasn’t until you went out back
that the tears came,
and I try to imagine what happened
when you saw the men
dropping coins into those machines—
what did you expect to find—
and the owner, whose name is color,
Chartreuse, she said she thought
maybe you were looking for your man,
didn’t know you’d been a widow
thirty years, was afraid
you might make other women
widows when you started
in on the peeping men,
shooing them like pigeons
from their twenty-five cent dreams,
and she said she found you
on the floor crying,
there’s no back door,
but she didn’t know you meant a way out
of the life you were in—she doesn’t know
when you say punch my ticket,
you mean you’re ready to go,
and when you say hair you mean breezy
afternoon picnics in the backyard
and other things you’ve lost,
when you say rain you mean sorrow
when you say sorrow you mean you’re full
of the sin of forgetting and the sin of never
letting anyone measure up,
and that sitting there, in a puddle
of your own clothes, you were welcoming her,
as you do God, in the hope
that they might not do the one thing
you’d made a career of, judging—
but she knew help meant you couldn’t
find your way, knew the world
fell apart in your chest
meant your heart had broken,
and when you said the last sunrise
is a smile
, that you needed
to be ready, that you’d be leaving soon,
which is more than we knew,
but when we finally figured out
where you’d gone, and were together again,
you said you needed to erase,
which didn’t mean disappear,
but meant make up
for all your past mistakes,
and, later, when you said goodbye,
you meant I love you even though.

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