A Conversation Between Women


My friend, who lost her husband
twice, first in death
and then in betrayal, orders
the pinot noir. Outside our window
lemon trees. The loss
she does not speak of—
unable to have children
with a man like that.
      That she could love him
into her wisdom. Despite her wisdom.
We call that love, the despite-ness.
As if by being senseless, the heart becomes brave.
I think of trees I had
but did not want, the length
of my marriages, what to do
next summer. My other friend,
who decided not to marry,
explains why. We look at the sky
because there is nowhere else
to look. For hours I will sip at my drink,
hazarding clarity, such salt.
        A teacher once said
there is no place for “because” in poetry
because reasons are not poetic. I wrote
no poems then, though I opened wounds
every day. I want to be alone
I said to my first husband. I want to be
alone I would one day say
to my next husband.
      Without an image,
the teacher intoned, no one will believe
there is pain. His wife hated him, I
observed; she found no pleasure
in any conversation. Oh, I wrote
no poems then. The neighbors could hear
our screaming, mistook it for television
or the trees. Because I hated him
I think of him now.
      If only that were reason enough.

Jennifer Chang's second book of poems, Some Say the Lark, won the 2018 William Carlos Williams Award.

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