New York City skyline at night




Melinda Thomsen


Since I can't invent my own husband,
nor find a real one, Simenon's
Maigret will do perfectly. My burly
French policeman whose pipe smoking
and calvados drinking I readily forgive
because of his mind, which soaks
up details and strings them together
as if forming pearl necklaces from seedy
murders were natural. In the evening,
he walks with his hand on the small of my back
to a café on the edge of the Seine for dinner
and listens to my choice of carpet for the living room
or where to live when he retires which he rarely
considers as murders hatch in Paris or its vicinity
as often as flies. You may find it strange my ideal
husband is addicted to work instead of me
for he understands me as well as a criminal. Liars
fascinate him as they cover their paths, some
stupidly and others brilliantly, but he sifts
through and arrives home in time for a movie.
It's not to say he doesn't bring his work home,
he does. In the middle of a case, he has that look.
A look of disengagement with the world, which
only lasts until the pieces start to come together
and may explain my draw to jigsaw puzzles.
We start off slowly but as days pass each piece
gets easier to identify, animating us as the end
becomes clearer. Jules, for that is his first name,
can even tell when the arrest will come as I judge
how many hours more my puzzle will take.
When all is done, he calls from the office to say
don't make dinner, we're going out
but that is all I know for that is all I have seen
of a husband. Perhaps, after a few years
Maigret will evolve into his author,
and get involved with dancers from Montmartre
then divorce me for the likes of Josephine
Baker or I'll stop seeing his calvados drinking
and pipe smoking as cute and nag him
about the ashes he drops on our carpet
until he leaves me or maybe he will
not turn out like his creator after all.


Aunt Ethel

She'd appear Thanksgiving,
Christmas and Easter, like those
figures of Norman Rockwell,
the extras you don't notice.
There she is, to the right,
leaning in, her gray hair
bunned, listening to everyone
though no one returns her gaze.
But, removing her
ruins my composition,
for what balances a background
of snowy drapes better
than the table cloth and that hair?
Bird-like, she perched
on her chair to speak to me,
most pleased and curious
about my life, though I never asked
about hers. Thirty years
after her death, I discover
she worked as a cashier.
Faced with my own walk on role
as the extra in lives of others,
I want to know more —
my father's aunt, born 1892,
who once wore my amethyst ring
that now, I realize was hers
for the Social Security Death Index
shows she was a Pisces. She wore
her disappearing with grace.
Too nice to marry, my mother
claimed. What man could stand it?
I must learn how to not feel hurt
When no thank you emails
pile up, my answering machine
flashes zero messages for days,
spam clogs my email box,
and my circle of friends shrinks
or should I emerge in the role
of bitch? An online dating advisor
tells men to double their dating by
not being nice. It never ever works
with women and his never is written
in neon red, capped, and bold — my heart
sinks and free falls, when he says,
women don't naturally feel attracted
to nice men. They want mystery
capped and bold but not in red;
men must become overconfident
creatures so women fight over them,
and the steps are in his free
newsletter but, by now, my heart
is on the floor digging a hole
to China with the teeth of my comb.



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