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I have lost the memory somewhere
over the years, not
completely, but like the antique cup you chipped
not much good for anything but looking at.

I look at you now, a stray
my husband brought in, ten years
my junior,
a challenge to my generosity with your
extra short skirts, your
Parisian French,
your late nights at the Hull Strip
stumbling on the stairs and waking
me up, not that I ever slept
while you lived here;
shutting down my sense of smell
to your expensive perfume, the lunches I made
tossed in the garbage,
the cans of tuna you fed my cat when
I was out, hands
thrust in my pockets
fingering enough change for coffee and a donut
on Bank.

Often I felt like the stray
whimpering at my husband's door and
memories come slinking back
like bad dogs asking forgiveness:
your cries the day you came home almost raped,
accepting a ride from someone you picked up
at a bar, your
astonishment at the event, anger and innocence
wrapped as tightly as a gift. I
cannot remember if I held you,
I doubt I did,
still rankling from changing your sheets
and finding the crabs' medicine
beside the bed. You

so young, so thin, so beautiful,
were a mangy dog with fleas,
digging through garbage each night, expecting
my pats when you dragged home, tongue
lolling from a lop-sided grin.

I have lost the time somewhere over the years;
an old clock with a cracked face that still
gives the same hour. You
would be almost forty now —
a challenge to my perceptions. Do
you still throw out your lunches, feed
the cat better than yourself?
The Hull Strip has declined theysay.

Do you still have crabs, Dominique?

      — Joy Hewitt Mann