25 April 2005 | Vol. 5, No. 1

Workers in Love


I had three husbands, two of them ghosts.

The last hocked Orange Crush at a crash

in Clear Lake. Maria Elena Holly sported

black bobby sox and wept over a rib bone

interred at the Surf Ballroom. There remains

Ritchie Valens. Backcomb the widow's veil,

a scrim of downbeats and some Aqua Net.

Flat, everything flat. The lake with white

foam, the white wicker honeymoon suite,

the red lipstick worn into pink. We strolled

on the imported beach, our shoes a byproduct

of wreck. Woody might call love flotsam.

I call it next. I've hummed about falling—

rock sentimentalities, lullabies.


Love did not exist before we moved

into the observatory. Stars are remote

as bolted letters, volcanoes. Sometimes

Woody eyes me over his unhappy salad

and murmurs of the statistical probability.

We are like criminals searching for paperclips.

Who could know that Cosmos 1953 would pass

under Cassiopeia in a memorable configuration?

How else might one catch a sustained glint?

The night was clear, my eyes maladapted.

I had never seen Mir so bright. Written

like parting, coupling becomes a pyrrhic victory.

Note rock songs. Note our heavenly hosts.

Note marriage, a gift thrown in the fire.


The ancients heard love as a stardust orchestra.

Woody's done time in the moonluck bandshell,

sitting on his hands, playing the dark as comets,

red giants slow danced, fire to fire, burning everything.

To want is what bodies do, but we are ghosts.

The gods sing in a humming tongue, like cicadas.

He's been scrying sound, witching vibrato, reading

notes of atmosphere. The marriage was a rumor

he once heard. Will he look in the leaves?

Cicadas sound like us, who never wanted

to eat or sleep. A vertigo of lips. A swallowed verb.

A captive harmony. A song might leak out

when silence is the acoustic remedy. How could we

escape on foot a sound that chased us with wings?


The Deus Ex Machina Puppet Troupe

pulled into Clear Lake at half past noon. I waited

among faces bored as moons. Woody came,

stinking of pomegranate, heart-eating grin.

This is love like a bad joke, he cracked.

I'd let old Buddy make himself a bed in my ear.

His rent cost nothing, two dummy quarters

and a half-spent roll of gossamer. I tied Girl

Scout knots around his breath 100 mornings

as if poets were singers, songs blocks of ice.

The other wives tell me if I leave food out

at night it will bring the dead. I write him

a menu. I would feed him what he wanted,

the cunning measurements of heartbeats, stars.


Planks, rust, canvas—everything I knew

sailed on. Clichéd as a deathbed,

Woody ate in my lazy-boy with his feet

on the leatherette pedestal. I printed a careful

list: Ursa Major, John Keats, an Epiphone.

First mates, all of them. We layered latitude

over longitude but never ended up

anywhere. Woody, why didn't you warn me

dinner would be pale? The dining room

is ocean, the air seethes. Call me cynical, but its

the music that degenerates. I hold the compass

to your right ear and pray for a waltz.

How can one fuss about such gnat-sized lapses?

But dinner, just more tea-colored eggs.


Madame Armstrong asks if a fancy bathroom

is worth a hundredth of a ghost. Woody balances

the books at midnight, fluorescents on, menacing

margins. The cost-benefit? The plus-or-minus row?

Organisms struck by desire misprize it, find it hovers

overhead instead of sleep. Ophelia opens for love,

swallows silt. Here rosemary, here Hamlet's kiss,

here the girl takes the rapids in waders and petticoat.

Here the city with no desire, the life he is asked

to lead. Imagine at once a particle and its velocity.

Imagine your wife's tributaries, how they all spilled over

for you. Woody has no principle for uncertainty,

so Madame Armstrong reads his hand, spies Kill Creek.

"Woody, this line means your heart still beats."

About the author:

Anne Boyer's poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming at Typo, Diagram, Shampoo, The Denver Quarterly, Unpleasant Event Schedule, and other journals. She lives in Iowa.

For further reading:

Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 5, No. 1, where "Workers in Love" ran on April 25, 2005. List other work with these same labels: poetry.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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