Elizabeth Langemak: "Marriage"



The first year I was married
it snowed in October and not again
after.  All fall I waited to see winter
draw the line between its breath
and my own but it did not.  The air
outside was a bath, and the trees
would not strip down.  Below our
new apartment the boiler coughed
indecisively, working itself up
and then down again, running a fever
that shook the floors in sweaty chills,
making our couch an island
for earthquakes, setting frames slant
on the walls.  In the cabinets,
wine glasses met in constant,
quivering toasts.  Water ran hot
from the faucets and we opened
the windows, but the two steaming
airs wrestled breezeless to a stalemate.
The leaves fell in November, all
at once, and at night.  They evaporated
on a warm day, and a groundsman
paused in his raking to say it felt
like June.  It did.  It felt like we were
riding the long tail of a secret
ceremony, as though the warm night
of our wedding had simply kept
uncurling and falling before us
like hair from a bun, more pins
holding it up than I knew how
to find.   On my first trip away
I drove north.  It was December
and I wore sandals, and the farther
I drove the grayer it turned
until it was night and when I opened
my door the darkness drew
every warm breath from the car.
It was strange to be alone again,
strange to like it, and to not.
In the morning snow covered
everything like a wet, white fire.
I buried my hand on the hood
of my car and it burned.


Elizabeth Langemak's work has appeared in Shenandoah, Literary Imagination, and Beloit Poetry Review.