poem of the week, I wrote for michelle

When a woman loves me
(after David Lehman's When a Woman Loves a Man)
by Devon Fitzgerald

When she says broke she means it's falling apart
and she can talk about her heart or the car
in the same sentence. And I don't say "you mean broken"
because her description is more accurate.

And when she says "it's over", she means the conversation
and I buy tulips or orchids, sometimes gerbera daisies,
hoping the way to say what my mouth can not
is somewhere in the petals, soft and smooth like her skin.

When I love a woman
she is in her apartment 60 miles
from mine, turning off her cell phone
or waiting for the bus in the rain,
her lashes wet with mourning
and I am typing on too many keyboards
or driving the well-worn path
between our doors.

She is just-showered
in the scent I bought because
it smells like need.
It is early morning
and I cling foolishly to dreams.
And when I wake the bed is cold;
it is too late to kiss her.

When she says, "I can't deal with this," she doesn't
just mean the laundry and the sky is dark
with thunderstorm clouds, perhaps tornados.
There is no shelter. It is me and her,
sitting in front of the laundromat
and though we have no clean clothes,
I do not make her go in.

When a woman loves me
she finds herself in conversations
where Barthes and Foucault appear
alongside discussions of the weather,
this year's crop.
When I love a woman
I watch her across the room,
hear her laugh,
joke about postmodernism
and brush hair from her eyes;
I fall from a distance
and even more up close,
my lips against her neck.

When a woman loves me
she gives me second chances
to break her heart,
to prove her wrong,
to get under her skin.
We disagree on almost everything
except one another.

When I love a woman
I am a horrible liar.
I make her nervous
stuck in traffic or
driving the Interstate.
I don't apologize nearly enough
or understand the way my voice
moves through the air sharp
and piercing. "Truce," I say
but I have no white flag,
no treaty or manifesto for peace.

I have this.

My love is not delicate
or fragile. It announces itself,
stumbles into the room
lays itself bare. So when she asks
for explanations, I attempt vulnerability.
"Don't try your rhetoric on me," she says
and I answer, "I wouldn't think of it."

When I tell her this is not the kind of poem
she asked for,
she wonders, "When is it ever?"
I think she says "over" and answer
"I'm not sure."
And something unexpected grows,
connecting us to the moment,
the place we exist
in neither of our apartments.

But somewhere in between.