Epithalamium

By EMILY LEITHAUSER

 
The morning after we decided not to get engaged
(I’d ridden the streetcar alone;
 
I felt purposeful and ashamed, my mouth stained with wine)
I sat down in the shower and wept
 
into the crook of one elbow, my arms folded over,
as the shampoo ran down my breasts
 
and spine. I was studying the contours of my knees, when it
took me suddenly,

 
the thought: I don’t remember if I assigned it words, or if
the feeling came to me
 
in pieces, like a poem. I knew outside I would apologize,
again; I knew it would hurt
 
us both, again; I knew were I to marry you someday,
theoretically,
 
when we wounded one another there would be no threat
of canceling the future.
 
In my towel, in New Orleans, incredulous, in the mirror, I think
I knew. I knew I would wait
 
to tell you. I knew that telling was impossible that day:
a saxophone outdoors,
 
the sun spangling its brass. I was seduced by pastels and chicory,
by voodoo shops and garlands
 
of beads, by swamp-heat, by the tables outside set for two,
and my secret answer yes.

 

[Purchase Issue 19 here.] 

 

Emily Leithauser’s first book, The Borrowed World, won the Able Muse Book Award and was published in 2016. Her poems and translations have appeared in Literary Imagination, New Ohio Review, Blackbird, and Southwest Review, among other publications. She is an assistant professor of English at Centenary College of Louisiana.

Epithalamium

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