Some Women Marry Houses and Other Poems

 
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Heather Treseler

Art by Linda Stojak

 
 

Some Women Marry Houses

Anne Sexton’s house, in my hometown,
is still margarine yellow with blue shutters,
a square Colonial sensible as a durable shoe
on a quiet road abutting woods, its front lawn
gracious as a lap smoothed within an inch
of perfection: Nature, duly fertilized, hedged
and bedded, weekly trimmed, a prelude
to the garden of garters and stays, silky
slips—garments meant to seduce, contain,
or govern the approach to bounty,
feminine reward, what awaited men
in their return from the capital wars.

To live in a rectangular fashion, guided by
right angles, in rooms assigned functions:
a tidy house keeping mum about its
lusts and layaways, its pang, its plan.
To play croquet beside the flagstone
patio, wielding mallets, nudging balls
inside all the pretty little wickets—
while the flank steaks sizzle and pop
in their own blood juice and the martini
pitcher perspires along its long glass handle
as the afternoon marinates in a pointed jest,
subtle rebuke, something edging to break loose.

 
 

Hitchcock in East End

The feel of meat between the teeth
soothed his panic or flavored it—

the night he woke from sleep

and found his parents not
at home, no note or neighbor

with news of their whereabouts,

no siren or scene of disorder:
kitten heels, derby hat missing

from the closet. With bovine

violence, he caromed into
the galley kitchen, began

eating slice after slice of deli

meat, corned beef and tongue,
something to assure himself

he was animal, boy, creature

who eats another: teeth gnawing
grist and grease, devouring fear

before it consumes, proving himself

Alfred—pale in an icebox’s fluorescent
glare, its celluloid square of light.

 
 

The Sitter

Good with kids and stubborn
stroller wheels, I knew never
to futz with a gas furnace

or disposal—learned the rules
of macrobiotic, Kosher, nut-free
kitchens. Epi-pens, tourniquets,

Heimlich maneuver. And when
they came home late, a little drunk
or smudgy around the mouth

to their children’s guardian, propped
up on Coca-Cola, in those years that
other people’s lives (and television)

split my infinitives into participles
of unknowing: gratefully, I took
crisp bills and the father’s chivalrous

offer to walk me home in the dark
that smelled of leaf rot, chance
of rain, tired cologne as he edged

in close. Sudden grip, then grope—
a swan dive and mouth over mine,
forced open to a salty tongue

while he held me against a hardened
cock. Rumor, in Virgil, is a wild
monstrous bird that ravages

the hand that feeds it. So I never
spoke of the soft assault. Or Susan’s
diet of grapefruit and gin, the devout

Mc Kinnons’ “family size” box
of rubbers or Jules, the single dad,
whose Parisian airs were French

Canadian. Yet I saw Roz’s forearm
bruises. Shelby’s cupboards taped
against bulimic urges. Toy handcuffs

tucked behind a laundry bin, and looks
that lingered past innocence; a silence,
among women, like an understanding.

I smelled guano and rotten fruit inside
that gated street, that quaint rookery
in Eighties Eden. Something rustled

in the chimney, on the roof. Someone
was gathering proof. In time, the truth
would let fly; I stayed quiet, waiting.

 


Heather Treseler

Heather Treseler is the author of Parturition (2020), which received the Munster Literature Centre’s international chapbook award. Her work appears in the American Scholar, Harvard Review, and the Iowa Review, among other journals, and her poem “Wildlife” won the 2021 Yeats Poetry Prize. She is a resident scholar at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center.



Linda Stojak

Linda Stojak (b. 1955) received her MFA from Pratt Institute, and has been awarded a Guggenheim fellowship, a Leeway Grant, a Distinguished Achievement Award from Arcadia University, and a residency in Toblach, Italy. Her work has been reviewed and discussed in numerous publications including the New York Times, Artforum, Riot Material, Art in America, and ARTnews; and is represented in over 300 private collections, as well as in public collections including the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, Seattle University, and the Harn Museum of Art. She lives and works in Philadelphia.



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