Wesley McNair


For My Wife

How were we to know, leaving your two kids
behind in New Hampshire for our honeymoon
at twenty-one, that it was a trick of cheap
hotels in New York City to draw customers
like us inside by displaying a fancy lobby?
Arriving in our fourth-floor room, we found
a bed, a scarred bureau, and a bathroom door
with a cut on one side the exact shape
of the toilet bowl that was in its way
when I closed it. I opened and shut the door,
admiring the fit and despairing of it. You
discovered the initials of lovers carved

The One I Think of Now

At the end of my stepfather’ s life
when his anger was gone,
and the saplings of his failed
nursery had grown into trees,
my newly feminist mother had him
in the kitchen to pay for all
those years he only did the carving.
“You know where that is,”
she would say as he looked
for a knife to cut the cheese
and a tray to serve it with,
his apron wide as a dress
above his workboots, confused
as a girl. He is the one I think of now,
lifting the tray for my family,
the guests, until at last he comes

When She Wouldn’t

When her recorded voice on the phone
said who she was again and again to the piles
of newspapers and magazines and the clothes

in the chairs and the bags of unopened mail
and garbage and piles of unwashed dishes.

When she could no longer walk
through the stench of it, in her don’ t-need-nobody-
to-help-me way of walking, with her head

bent down to her knees as if she were searching
for a dime that had rolled into a crack