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Apology for John

by Maria Flook

I admire his attempt to come back,
like the boy who shot all the rats
at the dump, and afterwards feels empty.
Next Sunday, there will be more rats
and he’ll get them too. As in the tailpipes
of junked cars they praise themselves,
multiplying so fast, it can’t be from love.
He might think death begins this way, bald
and gnawing.

I read a letter he wrote to a woman
before he became like this.
His face appeared in a photograph
squinting, as if blinded by chrome.
I wish he had written the letter to me,
back when he believed what he said.
As we believed he aimed at nothing
but love, having explained it
realistically, using action verbs
and the disheartened pronoun, her.
Describing wrecks on the highway and girls
in winter as pretty targets for snowballs,
he had a knack for exposing things.
What we hoped were lies, turned out true.

I know what it’s like to sit behind
a wheel that does not turn, and wait.
Abandoned things sometimes become memorable,
suddenly cherished, and I’m hopeful.
Desire makes an engine’s loud noise,
but to him it is the roar of inertia
like rodents eating through a steel womb.
If he gave everything over to love,
and it left without saying why, or Sorry,
let me. I’ll take all the blame, so he won’t
blame love. But some things must want to be
left alone, like hearts
that just grow larger with neglect.


Houghton Mifflin announced that Maria Flook’s manuscript Reckless Wedding was chosen on the basis of open competition for its New Poetry Series. It will be published in the fall. Her fiction will soon be appearing in Playgirl. (1982)

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