Red Bathrobe

A poem for Sunday

Picture of a man holding a cigarette in Paris, France
Jim Goldberg / Magnum

You’re standing in the doorway in my red bathrobe,
one arm stretched out into the sun, a cigarette burning at the tip.
You’re leaning on the jamb, talking
about ghosts or contrails, the loneliness of Tony Soprano,
the compound eye of the housefly.
And so, Beloved, I can’t tell you it’s useless—
despite your intentions, the smoke billows in.
I ruined it between us.
Oh, you helped—I admit that.
But the dernier cri is: I hurt you and you left.
Such an old story. What remains is the ache.
Like the moon, hunk of rock chipped off, but never gone.
Sometimes it seems I stumble around
zigzagging from wreck to wreck. What foolishness
to think I’d be wiser or luckier or more blessed.
And after all, I was granted you for a time
(your just-washed hair coppery and dripping) trash-talking
mean and funny about everyone we knew. Now
you must be dissing me. I know
exactly what you’re saying.
But you say it less and less.
I’ve never been grateful enough. I always want more
and then more. That last time, you left the crushed
stub of a Salem on the window ledge. It took years
for the fragile paper to dissolve, for the chopped-up leaf to crumble,
the strands of filter to finally come undone
and be carried away in the wind.