After two and half decades you’d think
I could shut up and let your despair
talk itself around, but I butt in
so it marinates in mutual regret:
man-made, woman-made grief.

Love lives here too, I tell myself,
but can be surprisingly irrelevant.
I am sure this is normal
and normal is never good.

Before we married I worried
I was replicating an institution
everyone knows doesn’t work.
But what else to do in the face
of distance and late-night phone calls?
We couldn’t hang up
on the aphrodisia of us.

I have been wondering
about wifely duty and how well
I have mangled all expectations,
which might be a good thing
since expectations
are never a good thing.

So I think I am in trouble
what with the way frustration
zigzags from your eyes
my bitter half, my yokemate,
and that hollow feeling I have–
not knowing how to snare
our disappointment
and put it out of our misery.

I have been wishing
we could begin again
to know not what we know
because knowing is not
always a good thing.

Hook and eye
fastened to one another:
hitched, tying and retying
the knot, one bone and one flesh,
commitment called love,
called pain in the ass.
Husband and wife
‘til death do us.

Elaine Handley is a published poet and fiction writer who lives in Middle Grove, NY. She is also a Professor Emeritus at SUNY Empire State College and a three-time winner of the Adirondack Center for Writing Best Book of Poetry.