He had an ex, as men his age all do;
an actress, self-involved and quite insane,
he said, but it was over now with Jane,
or so he said, as men his age will do
(at least, the ones she was attracted to),
but there was something there that pulled her chain—
a sense of humor, and a half a brain.
He cooked, they talked, he knew the books she knew,
and rapt with who each was and what they’d read,
they drained the wine and tumbled into bed.
She had this errant gene, she liked to say,
which went back to the time when men began
and kicked in every time she met a man
as smart as she (friends joked about the way
that even after too much Chardonnay,
she never could admit to “smarter than”),
she’d sleep with him, fall half in love, and plan
a brand new life—then find out he was gay,
(at least unstraight), or slightly undivorced,
or only liked it when the sex was forced.
But this time all went well, if all unschemed:
she had her crazies, sure, but so did he;
even the neuroses nestled perfectly.
She loved the way his sunburst neckties gleamed,
against dark business suits; their tastes all seemed
the same—the dishes even matched—and she
began to get the sense that possibly
this one might work; the voice that often screamed
beware was almost still, and she felt good
about herself in ways she rarely could.
There was a problem, though, in that he clung
to memories of Jane: he’d reminisce
about some role she’d played, then try to twist
the conversation when he saw he’d stung
her—when she cried—but Jane’s old stills still hung
along a hallway, and he clearly missed
that glamour he had shared, the show-biz glitz.
So, slowly, as she settled in among
the shreds of Jane, she moved them out of sight:
the stills and posters went without a fight.
In time Jane disappeared, as ex-wives do,
and life evolved to whiskers in the drain,
and tedium, or sometimes some champagne,
and him and her, and nothing to pursue
now that they had each other. He just withdrew,
he shrank, and then it hit her like a train
that everything he was was formed by Jane.
The dishes, books, his earthy pot au feu
were Jane’s; the neckties she adored, a gift
from Jane; without Jane he was cast adrift.
He bought himself some ties, striped shades of brown,
and she exchanged them—Christ, they were passé—
for golden splashes like a summer day,
and he was fine with that. He settled down,
and let her run their life without a frown.
She caught Jane in a new off-Broadway play,
and introduced herself, and later they
talked hours, in a place Jane knew downtown.
She understood, but couldn’t quite explain,
that what she’d done was fall in love with Jane.
From Life in the Second Circle (Able Muse Press, 2012)
The Gallery Opening
“I really like the subtle use of negative,
um, space, you know, in contrast with the positive,
so that it all begins to seem so relative
and consequently, if I may, evocative—
which is precisely why it’s so informative—
provocative, and at the same time tentative;
not in the least judgmental, not competitive,
but kind of, sort of like, almost illustrative.
“Collector? That sounds so accusative!
I’m just—you know—a bored executive
who sometimes buys some art. Conservative,
of course, and nothing too prohibitive.
And you? I see that you’re not talkative.
I love that in a woman. Sensitive!”
Michael Cantor’s full-length collection, Life in the Second Circle (Able Muse Press, 2012), was a finalist for the 2013 Massachusetts Book Award for Poetry. A chapbook, The Performer, was published in 2007; and his work has appeared in The Dark Horse, Measure, Light, Raintown Review, SCR, Chimaera, The Flea, and numerous other journals and anthologies. He was also a finalist in the Nemerov (twice), Richard Wilbur, Able Muse and Robert Penn Warren poetry competitions, and won the New England Poetry Club Gretchen Warren and Erika Mumford prizes. A native New Yorker, he has lived and worked in Japan, Latin America and Europe, and presently resides on Plum Island, north of Boston on the Massachusetts coast.