The old rules made for so much
less guesswork. Women knew where we stood
if a man didn’t cover a mud hole with his coat
or offer us a smoke.
But to love a man who loves
the past is to become assassin.
My failures remind him
that history is dead
as if I killed it.
This flat-chested, athletic build will never be
pin-up girl plump.
And when I mention vintage cars
are impractical to drive,
that mercury is poison
in neon signs, he tells me
You’re a drag, Doll, a square.
He wants that pair of conical tits
beneath the atomic beehive hairdo.
In the foggy morning mirror, he looks back
with exasperation, like a man about to pluck
the straw-tip wrapper off an egg cream,
something he discards
before the sweetness.
The Grave Tree
The hardest wood to split he hews by hand.
Hammer-meets-wedge in my sleep,
a private plague as he pens in the land,
making it no longer wild. The vined growth
ceases to wriggle under foot,
the first of our bloodless carnage.
The woodpecker’s in on it now.
Beetle pupae burrow into crevices
widened from his greedy holes.
It starts like that, every demise
a piercing, like mixed company
After he controls the land,
beats back every disorderly thing,
he turns on me, my wild chaos.
I can no longer stay
in the farmhouse whose front yard
grows an oak, its branches cinched
with rope where the boy swings.
I will miss most this only tree he has
left standing—the Grave Tree,
among whose roots are entombed
the four goldfish, two cats, and one hamster
we could not keep alive, the best parts of us.
Lynn Marie Houston has had poetry appear in Painted Bride Quarterly, Poydras Review, Uppagus, The Boston Literary Review, and others. Her first collection, The Clever Dream of Man, is due out from Aldrich Press in September 2015. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she tends her honeybees and kayaks local rivers.