At a time when a relationship is falling apart, sometimes the news of its failure doesn’t come out of a mouth but from gestures. Claudia Emerson, who lives in Virginia, here captures a telling moment.
It was fifty cents a game
beneath exhausted ceiling fans,
the smoke’s old spiral. Hooded lights
burned distant, dull. I was tired, but you
insisted on one more, so I chalked
the cue—the bored blue—broke, scratched.
It was always possible
for you to run the table, leave me
nothing. But I recall the easy
shot you missed, and then the way
we both studied, circling—keeping
what you had left me between us.
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2005 by Claudia Emerson, whose most recent book of poetry isFigure Studies, Louisiana State University Press, 2008. Poem reprinted from Late Wife, Louisiana State University Press, 2005, by permission of Claudia Emerson and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.