My One Hundred Husbands

  1. You should see them change a light bulb:
  2. what a joke. Or rather, as they can’t-won’t-don’t
  3. you should see me: tiptoes on a wobbling
  4. chair, how I reach, strain, sigh. Three shrill
  5. metallic turns later and shocking light fills
  6. the glass, pales the room, exposes them.
  7. Useless as babes, pillows between their knees,
  8. some roll over on their couches, aim faces
  9. into cushions. Others throw the insides
  10. of elbows over eyes and flap their free hands
  11. in my direction. “Turn it off, turn it off.”
  12. And I do. You should listen to my husbands
  13. groan. To hear them coming, their clinking
  14. ice and floorboard-bowing steps, their excited
  15. babble: it fills up a room like an approaching
  16. mower, closes in like a closing-in wall.
  17. Thumbing my wrist to gauge heart’s
  18. patter, my well-taught face prepares
  19. its smile. (I just hope they all haven’t gone
  20. and bought something.) For it’s all or nothing
  21. with my hundred husbands. In the yard,
  22. it’s them, perched shirtless atop their hundred
  23. tractors, making mud with their four hundred
  24. wheels, or me, alone, leaning into the push
  25. mower, doing it “wrong.” Added head
  26. to toe my hundred husbands equal
  27. a fallen tree. Bend them and they nearly
  28. lap a running track. Add their ages and the tower
  29. of years falls back or forward for four
  30. centuries. But of such arrangements
  31. they aren’t capable. They can barely
  32. form a line. They have no leader,
  33. or maybe each think he’s the leader.
  34. (“Why don’t I lead them?” you wonder
  35. I’ve tried: it’s hopeless as a boat trying
  36. to steer the river beneath it). They’re a flock.
  37. From one of the piles in which they lay,
  38. flopped, putting out smells and heat,
  39. suddenly they’re up, moving. The house
  40. goes flowerless for months, and then becomes
  41. a greenhouse of flowers, a newspaper-wrapped
  42. grocery store bouquet from each and every
  43. one. Flowers poke from vases, from beer bottles
  44. in cardboard cases, pitchers, kettles, fists.
  45. Cooking pots are filled with soil (and where
  46. did they get the soil? Exhibit A: my potholed
  47. yard.) “Did you like the flowers?” they ask.
  48. “Yes,” I lie, biting back another scream.
  49. If my car has a creak, the area underneath
  50. transforms to a melon patch of heads, legs
  51. squiggling out in all directions, buggish,
  52. centipede-ish. (Do I fantasize turning
  53. the key, making a mess of them? Oh God
  54. yes). And it’s like that with everything.
  55. In their hands, a bar of soap goes from block
  56. to film in instants. Toilet paper and paper
  57. towels are rapid-spun to cardboard tubes,
  58. then un-replaced. You’d think with so many
  59. ears there’d be some listening! Indeed, there’s
  60. almost no communication. One hundred voices:
  61. the result is noise. Pure as static, I close
  62. my eyes in it, feel it all around….
  63. So what do I do? I dissolve in task.
  64. I count, I pile, I stack. With one hundred
  65. husbands, I deal in a mass production.
  66. Number climb and climb inside my head,
  67. balance on my mind’s unsteady top step,
  68. until I’m talked to, then they’re gone.
  69. One hundred bag lunches. Seven hundred
  70. pairs of boxers. A machine, I know the time
  71. each daily duty takes down to the second,
  72. and savor what satisfaction endings bring.
  73. Come night, I welcome their weight,
  74. stare up at the shadows fan-blades make
  75. and grit my teeth. One after another,
  76. till my body shakes like teeth, till they’re done.