What can I tell you? That I was not wholly
surprised? That a man like him counts on enemies,
in paranoia even courts them?
In his death, the tension of our estrangement
did not lift. Think how a horse, mouth emptied of bit,
given the entire pasture, will choose
to linger beneath the willow, as was the habit,
but without a rider grows confused, led to loneliness,
and will submit to any whip,
even the soft slow whips of the willow it loves.
I can tell you when my knee split
on cinderblock, piled on the porch for some never-
to-be-finished project, I clung to his cowboy shirt
because I wanted him to feel my need for him, though
I felt nothing, running my finger along the injury.
It was then I became less myself, less human, my new
coldness like strength. So if you’re asking if I am
afraid to stay here, in this house, those men
on the loose, I can tell you no. That fear is razed.
I suspect I will marry soon. A man to enter the ledger
of pleasures I can count on:
walking through woods when snow makes a perfect
angle with my isolation, and telepathic owls
are all ears: comforting and indifferent.
Paula Bohince is the author of three collections: Swallows and Waves (Sarabande Books, 2016), The Children (Sarabande, 2012), and Incident at the Edge of Bayonet Woods (Sarabande, 2008). Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, AGNI,The Best American Poetry, and elsewhere. She has been a Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholar. She lives in Pennsylvania. (updated 9/2019)
Her AGNI poem “The Fly” was chosen for The Best New Poets 2005. Paula briefly served as poetry editor of AGNI in fall 2019.