This Thing Between Us: A Rehearsal – Marianne Peel

I used to think separation was an easy
lackadaisical thing. Skipping town
on an errand that never ends.
A one-way ticket out and down the road.

I have to practice being without you,
you told me. As if I am a cello
concerto that you must return to
even in your sleep. Left hand pressing
blindly on an invisible fret board. Right
hand bowing the air with Beethoven notes.

I appear in your dream as a cadenza. No
manuscript notes. Just an Etta James
kind of scatting in the dark of a smoky dance
floor, at that Basque restaurant in Bakersfield.

Your old lover played cello. Vibrating strings
from her own little corner in the kitchen
next to the pantry stocked with canned beans,
rice, chimichurri sauce, and cellophane noodles.

Every morning you stood at the kitchen sink,
taking a straight razor to your cheeks. You liked
feeling the sandpaper of your beard vanish
as she lowered you into the basement of her range,
like a chromatic scale gone berserk.

But now I know separation is a vile thing.
The way you stroke your eighteen year old
cat in bed. Orange mat of clotted hair, saying good-bye
over and over. Practicing for the not-being-there.

The way you put your earring back in
on Friday nights. The way we knew all
the Happy Hour dives that served appetizers
and discount booze. I watched you devour
sheep’s cheese and black cherry jam smeared
on stale sesame crackers. As if it were your last
meal. Always practicing the leaving.

I remember the night we licked the same spoon
between saucers of gin. Juniper juice with a drop kick.
Our breath a collision of stainless steel and cherry jam,
of soft liquor and the clink of jagged ice.

Photo by Henry Dick on Unsplash

After having taught middle and high school English for 32 years, Marianne is now nurturing her own creative spirit.  She has spent three summers in Guizhou Province, teaching best practices to teachers in China. She received Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal (2003) and Turkey (2009). Marianne participated in Marge Piercy’s Juried Intensive Poetry Workshop (2016).  Marianne’s poetry appears in Muddy River Poetry Review, Belle Reve Literary Journal, Jelly Bucket Journal, Gyroscope Review, among others. Marianne was a finalist for the Naugatuck River Review Narrative Poetry Contest (2020), and she was longlisted for the Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize (2021). Further, she received 3rd Place Poetry Award in Comstock Review’s Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Contest.  In addition, her chapbook was a finalist in Comstock Review’s Jesse Brice Niles Chapbook Contest.   She has a collection of poetry, No Distance Between Us, published in 2021 by Shadelandhouse Modern Press.

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