When you were the husband, you kissed up my back,
lips cresting each ridge of spine. When I was the husband,
I traced your name—the only poem I knew—
with pointer finger, then tongue, in the small frame
your shoulder blades made. When you were the husband,
I lay flat on my back and closed my eyes. When I closed
my eyes, the room didn’t smell like musty blankets, damp
weather, strawberry shampoo. When you were the husband,
I couldn’t be the husband. When you were the wife,
I wanted to be the wife. When you licked my wrist,
I imagined I was someplace I wasn’t supposed to be.
When I was the wife, I never asked how you learned to be
the husband; the wife doesn’t ask questions. When you
taught me how to be the husband, you instructed through
touch. The room always dark. Hold me like this. We didn’t
call it anything. When we stripped down to underwear,
I had this extra gene called inhibition. Once, when you
were the husband, I told you to stop. No one taught me
to be the wife. You never cried. You never wanted me
to stop. We slept like two spoons tossed in a drawer.
Emari DiGiorgio is a recipient of two Vermont Studio Center Residencies, a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Poetry Fellowship, and the Ellen LaForge Memorial Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous literary journals, including the Blueshift Journal, DIAGRAM, Mead, Poetry International, Smartish Pace, Tupelo Quarterly, and Verse. She is Associate Professor of Writing at Stockton University and a visiting Poet-in-the-Schools through the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Dodge Foundation.