My old boyfriend misses me and calls to say so. My husband doesn’t
miss me at all. Too much closeness. Too much television. Too much
coronavirus. All-consuming togetherness. I clean out accumulated years
of crap. I’m afraid to mention his crap to him because we can’t start
a war, hostages together in our former home.
Lawns green up. Trees leaf out filling in spaces where spruce trees gap.
The tamarack bears little fists of needles. I strew Nina’s Milorganite
(tiny pellets of sewage from Milwaukee) on plants I don’t want deer
to eat after the unfortunate incident with the cup plant.
Packs of deer roam the neighborhood. The delightful quiet. Lack of cars.
Lack of leaf blowers. Lack of chainsaws. I hear the squirrel’s claws chew
into the bark as it flies up a tree.
In the crosshairs today of two freeways. I hear the semis when they hit
the rumble strips on the interstate. The sirens on Stadium Drive
when the accident is on 131.
I am not unhappy being home. I can shut doors. Live in my room.
Teach him to shut doors quietly. Cook healthy food. Continue my
program of cleaning and organizing. Invite him to join me. He says
I inspire him but then nothing.
If I don’t plant the peppers, they won’t fail. But I did plant. Six hours
a day of sunlight. Water. Warmth. I continue to hope. Rake a new pile
of leaves outside this window where three saplings catch and contain
them. Myrtle and greenery unearthed. Habitat created. Mysteries for
deer to poke at with charcoal hooves.
Lilies of the valley spike up under the Rose of Sharon.
Milorganite. Milorganite. Sydnee’s giant hosta survived two years
with no nibbles, but I doused it anyway. The shitting citizens
of Milwaukee keep my plants whole and I thank them.
If my husband and I were a dance, we would be the Maypole dance.
He would be stationary, and I would move around him with different
colored streamers, weaving around myself in time lapse photography.
Jigsaw puzzles are coming in the mail. He doesn’t enjoy those.
We have a pool table in the basement; he doesn’t like to play with me.
We play the one game of cards he will play, and he’s not very good at it.
I coach him through. His feet don’t bend when he trudges like a caveman.
My old boyfriend misses me and calls to say so. Life with him would be
no different than it is with my husband. I know for a fact. I tried it.
Look outside. Look inside. Buds on the lilac. CNN. I miss almost everything.
first full-length book of poetry, Dominant Hand, is available from Mayapple
Press, and she is co-author with artist Mary Hatch of
Art Speaks: Paintings
and Poetry (Kazoo Books, 2018). Other books by Kerlikowske include The Shape
of Dad (a memoir in prose poems), Last Hula (winner of the 2013 Standing
Rock Chapbook Competition), and Chain of Lakes.
She has been publishing her poetry and fiction for more than 20 years in such journals
and magazines as Encore, Cincinnati Review, Passager, and Poemeleon,
among others. Her work is anthologized in Nothing to Declare: A Guide to the Flash
Sequence (White Pine Press, 2016), The Female Complaint: Tales of Unruly
Women (Shade Mountain Press, 2015), and the Michigan writers anthology published
by Western Michigan University (WMU). She also creates visual art and has recently
completed the Hester Prynne Chair, first of a series of literary women
Kerlikowske completed her doctorate in English at WMU in 2007. An arts activist,
she has served for many years as the president of the Kalamazoo Friends of Poetry,
and she is also president of the Poetry Society of Michigan. She’s retired
from a teaching career at Kellogg Community College.
Featured Artists Mary Hatch and Elizabeth Kerlikowske in KYSO
Flash (Issue 9, Spring 2018); includes half a dozen of Kerlikowske’s
ekphrastic prose poems and micro-fictions inspired by Hatch’s paintings
Three in Prose by Kerlikowske in DIAGRAM (Issue 5.1):
“Forty Winks,” “The Girls’ Room,” and