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House In Summer With A Slapped Face In It

ISSUE:  Spring 2003
Edward Bartók-Baratta

Again: he swears he’ll never. Smiles
 as if he will. Outside, the tulip tree
   fills out its form in triplicate: pink, discreet. Deliberate

he pins your palm on your favorite
 of his shirts, and beneath, his heart,
   tiny needle’s eye, conducts its study of an endless thread

of blood: Cross my heart and hope. . .
 he says. And winks. Outside, spring wizens
   on the stem, slumps its crippled wilts toward summer. And

he’d swear even on the cracked back
 of his mama’s fat Bible, spine split
   by gold-leaf, swears he hopes he’d want to die. Never (your hand

at the dropped stitch of his pulse),
  not again. From where you stand,
   never’s not far off: in summer, a closed house grows toward it,

a wilderness; in the bedroom, he strips. You,
 like bougainvillea, confuse rack and screw,
   who is thorn and who is bloom, whose rent pink hangs

in the sheets. . . After, in the rusty tub,
  he draws a bath amber with sap; he cleans
   you sleepless with the usual question: in the kitchen, in the
     sink, a ruin

of crows rings, black telephones.


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