Not a Love Poem

You asked me why I never wrote you a poem.
I said I don’t write love poems.
In this age of increasing specialization,
I’m a poet dealing strictly in pestilence —
Lousy children,
Lecherous uncles,
Escaped, deranged killers with at least one hand missing
Who butcher the countryside and, what’s worse, drool.
I can’t write of the time I lay down with a headache.
You glazed your hands with peanut oil
And hummed to me, and rubbed my feet.
Or the stir-fry you made the first time we ate in,
With Chinese hot peppers,
So many that I couldn’t breathe in the kitchen,
So we sat on the porch
And ate with the lights off,
And listened,
And stayed, too full to go in.

Gillian S. Herald, Chicago, Class of 1997

Originally published in Vol. XI: 1995