Max Zimmer: Newly Wed

When you pick her up at the hospital after work,
in the light blue Volkswagen that still shows the phantoms
of the wedding graffiti when it rains,
you can smell the day’s disinfectant in her green uniform.
When you take her head and put your mouth on the skin behind her ear,
you can smell the disinfectant deep in her blond hair
and feel the wet heat rise off the back of her neck.
When she rests her hand on the thigh of your Levis you can feel the heat again.
She doesn’t talk when you slip a right through the red light at South Temple
and glance across at her to see points of sweat on the flares of her nostrils.
You have nothing to say when she reaches down below the dash
to untie her hospital shoes and her hair cascades across her flushed face.
When you get her home and her clothes come off
you can see the welt the elastic band of her pantyhose has left
like the scar of a thin bloodsucking worm around her waist,
the way her pubic hair has been smashed as flat as winter grass
against the field it makes below her belly,
the way her breasts look molded and her nipples crushed
by the cups of her bra when she shakes the straps off her arms.
When you drop your Levis you can see the way your t-shirt goes
from gray to white at the line where your belt rode.
When you pull its neck off your face
you can smell, on your slick raw fingers, the metal and grease
from the cutters and rivet gun you’ve used that day
to nail sheets of quivering tin to the rafters of four more mobile homes.
You think, right then, that maybe you should take a shower first.
Or wash your hands. Or wait for the welt to fade. Or the smell to leave her hair.
Or her nipples and pubic hair to recover
from the rigging of her underwear.
Check the mail. Play with the kitten. Let the day fall back
to where the two of you won’t feel like you’re doing this
on the living room linoleum of a half built trailer house
or on the tile floor of a hospital closet.
Open this gift you both got married for
with the reverence your wedding guests would hope to see you exercise.
But here you are. Here where the engine of your Volkswagen
still ticks and pings with heat out in the parking lot.
Here where she can see that your feet are welted with the stitches left in them
by the laces and the eyelets of your workboots.
Here where the tunafish sandwich you ate out of your lunchbox
has left the feel of old newspaper on your unbrushed teeth.
Here where she can feel how your knees are crabbed from kneeling on the scaffold
to get the rivets into the tin up under the overhang of the roof.
Here where her sweat takes the afternoon sun from the room’s one window
and makes her waiting body gleam
where she’s thrown herself across the crocheted bedspread
neither of you can take the time to tear away.
Here you are. Pitiless as jackals among your wedding gifts.
Ruthless as crows for what was always there. Here in this bedroom
among the Early American chest and dresser and matching nightstands
you sold your Firebird for a month ago,
her sweat is your sweat.
On the Beautyrest mattress and box spring with the headboard still on layaway,
her eyes are your eyes. Her arms your arms.
Your Levis and t-shirt her uniform. You’ve done your time.
Sent thank you notes to the friends and relatives
who hoped you could keep this decent. Take each other
here, now, in this instant where the evidence of what you are
is new enough to make you sob.
On the tile floor of the janitor’s closet,
while the rubber wheels of a gurney roll past outside the door,
her surgical assistant’s hands reach deep enough into your back
to drive their claws into your stomach.
On the linoleum floor of the half-built trailer house,
while rivets are punched through the tin
and workboots idle back and forth along the scaffold out the window,
your roofer’s fangs reach deep enough into her throat
to draw new blood from her lungs. Here you are.
In the afterwork rush hour heat
in the airless bedroom of this rented second floor apartment.
Unclean and savage and stinking among your gifts.
The beasts that your wedding has finally let you make of one another.
Her cry your cry. Your flesh her flesh. A priest gave you this right.
A priest gave you this right.

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