He was holy water,
when he consumed her,
he was no longer a man of the cloth
but a man without his clothes.
He was the turkey at every Thanksgiving,
she, the ham at every Christmas.
When they decided to cook up something together,
they ended up with a little meatball,
full of spice & spunk.
The parents still reigned supreme, however,
for they could be enjoyed cold as well as hot.
He was nice
(but too nice to other men’s wives);
she was naughty
(but only with her husband).
Neither considered themselves
above the other,
for they were both
on very important lists.
He walked the line,
she crossed the line.
He was the goody-2-loafers
(sans the penny),
she, the rebel in hot pink espadrilles.
She smoked (chicken & every other kind of flesh)
& drank (root beer & ginger ale)
& stayed out late at the Internet cafe,
writing the stories that got her into trouble
but only because they got others into trouble.
She was a reporter first,
a writer second,
so that when they met at a poetry reading
at The End of the Line cafe,
she taught him to tell his truth
through the style he preferred—
a truth he first had to live.
Elizabeth, Libby, Betsy, and Bess,
They all went together to seek a bird’s nest.
They found a bird’s nest with five eggs in,
They all took one and left four in.
—Mother Goose nursery rhyme
Elizabeth possessed 7 different personalities—
Libby, Zibby, Beth, & Liz,
Liddy, Betty, & Bess—
1 for every color of the rainbow.
He was the 7th son of a 7th son
& perfect for her,
even as she was perfect for him,
for he had a new woman
every day of the week,
just as she had a man
who loved her for better,
& for downright bat-poo crazy.
When she tried to be Mom & Dad to her children,
she diminished the uniqueness of each role.
When she realized that trying to be both
was as crazy as trying to treat a boy like a girl,
she tried to be twice the mom
she had been in half the time.
When help came in the form of a man
who loved the 3 of them,
her heart was soft enough to let his head
make an imprint there
& fill it with his love.
He’d been defrocked,
& she’d been disbarred.
They fell in love
as they’d fallen into other traps:
Through blood that flowed
away from the brain &
into their erogenous danger zones.
Their recklessness brought them crashing together,
even though he couldn’t save her
any more than she could defend him.
He was Urban Dictionary,
she, Merriam Webster.
She thought him crude,
he thought her a prude,
but when they had to work together
to meet a common goal,
they found a common interest:
He was meat & potatoes,
she, veggie burgers & sprouted grains.
Over dark chocolate mousse
with white chocolate antlers,
they fell for one another,
realizing that the savory had kept them alive,
even as the sweet had sealed the deal with a kiss.
The home is the child’s first school,
the parent is the child’s first teacher,
and reading is the child’s first subject.
When Miss Margaret Susan got married
& became Mrs. Peggy Sue,
she, who had been a cosmopolitan traveler,
became a domestic goddess,
defined & deified as such by her husband,
her conversation sparkling like the windows,
her cooking nourishing like the rain.
When she gave birth to Suzy & Margie,
she taught them all she had learned
from the days she had backpacked her way
through the lands of her lineage.
She read to them about all the places she’d been,
told them about all the places they’d go,
& what wasn’t in the books,
she could fill in.
She taught them that there was a time to travel,
a time to stay home,
& a time to bring home with her;
now was that time.
And when her husband saw her
under the Tuscan sun & Parisian moon,
he saw her in a different light.
He saw that he had fallen in love with a woman
who wasn’t all she was because of him
but of all who had come before him.
He was a logical astronomer,
she, an astrologer who was
a certified space cadet.
For years, he’d studied the heavens,
only to make contact with this celestial body
who would take him there
at the speed of sound.
He studied the planets,
to learn more about his own.
She studied her ancestors,
to learn more about herself.
When he learned that Earth
was his adopted home,
it changed nothing,
but when she learned that
was her adoptive family,
it changed everything.
He lived amongst the stars,
who weren’t so bright without their scripts,
whereas she lived under
another kind of star—
the ones that would outlive every last one of them
& needed no words to amaze them all.
Her lunchtime walks in Newbury Park
did not go unnoticed by the collegiate-clad young man
who watched her from his studio apartment,
sipping a chai latte on his balcony,
typing his thesis on his cell.
Every day, he saw the woman of his dreams
meeting the man of any woman’s dreams,
sharing a sandwich (never submarine)
but the diagonal kind made of shelf-stable bread and always served cold—
the stuff brown-bagged lunches were made of.
The man’s coffee was always hot,
no matter the season,
their wedding bands shining—
butter yellow in the spring,
starburst yellow in the summer,
pallid yellow in the fall.
Were they birds or bears,
going further south
or hibernating for the winter?
one frosty night that turned his cheeks cherub,
he saw the man and woman
reading side by side on a bench
in the public library—
He would learn that they had nowhere else to go,
for they could be there and not have to buy anything.
Then came the day that he no longer saw them
where kids used outside voices and books were free for a limited time,
where squirrels frolicked,
making arcs on the sidewalk,
where tables were set up with jigsaw puzzles
for the dodgy old men whose wives were dead or troublesome,
where the magenta buds of the crepe myrtles
hovered like feathers in the heat shimmer,
and where educated young mothers corralled their toddlers during Storytime.
When he returned to college that last semester,
he saw the man and woman not as students
but as teachers—
teaching about the ideas and ideals
that had gotten them through
those long months of joblessness
that sometimes begat hopelessness
in a society that undervalued those
who wanted to do nothing more than teach.
She spent part of her holiday
scrapbooking her memories,
there would be more of them;
the other she spent
memorializing another’s memories,
there wouldn’t be
any more of them,
yet both books
were a celebration of life
& the people who lived it.
The friends she’d had during the best of times
were her friends for a season,
& were wonderful in their time,
but the friends who were there for her
during the worst of times
were her friends for all seasons—
sunbeams that warmed the grieving rain.
She put smiley-faced notes in her children’s lunch bags,
left lovey-dovey Post-Its for her husband on the kitchen counter,
& texted silly jokes to her mother when she couldn’t reach her.
She left a paper trail that stretched for miles,
so that when she was suddenly gone,
her family was left to pick up the scraps
that couldn’t even begin to tell the story
of how much they’d meant to her.