Idling the MG, he lips the Tipperary
as she teeters on red stilettos
toward the clanging metal door.
He’s made a list for her,
small objects she has been instructed to purchase,
proof of her attachment to him.
He hints at love,
as if desire were love’s close cousin.
“This,” he says, “is a test.”
How she hates that heavy door,
its rusty hinges screaming her entry.
And the clerk’s spaceship eyes lapping her alive.
Is she by herself, he wants to know,
tossing his possum-like ponytail over one shoulder.
Yes, she lies.
Her man has ordered her to say this,
promising safety. Hers is a love,
understudy to loneliness and denial.
Thrilled and ashamed,
her fist closes around the sultry vial,
chucking it at him through the car window—
her one act of defiance—
as if she’s just been scalded.
The night is pulled
like taffy from its origin—
a shave as she lay naked on the bed
in their dingy apartment on Burlington Street—
to exhaustion: a spilled jam jar of Merlot,
a broken mirror:
The sound of glass breaking
will keep her awake