Tammy Armstrong (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada): Four Poems

AFFAIR WITH MY PARTNER AFTER SPRING HAIRCUT/SHAVE

This begins my affair:
this new face in our bed.

Fastidiousness spatchcocked
into shiftless lust
in a basement tavern
where the base boys
dance with undergrads
and we drink with blind date enthusiasm.

Treat me proverbial,
chalky with wine and newness,
bringing it all to bed
while he’s away on a road trip.

This perennial hook-up
leaves alarm clocks,
toothbrush rituals in the margins.
Back story:
a much younger you,
a .12 gauge, a chipmunk.
The words don’t matter at last call.

Take me home in the van—
a box of finishing nails
chattering
in the back,
a weeks worth of Globe and Mails
nested on the passenger seat.

If they ask, tell them.
Yes, we left the Chevron,
near the Tannery
around three—
a new pack of smokes
paid for from an ambitious wallet.
Clearly, single before tonight.

CALAMARI AND INK

We needed a memory
for a meal no one could finish.
Hooked index fingers into bowls of black—
cursive graffiti
along the dining room table.

Not contained on sponge pads
cover charge bar stamps
the ink pooled cabaret make-up.
Not all offerings from the ocean are grand.

Squid like a boxed ear
swollen, cut
re-shaped into a gift
an adjustable ring from a small town carnival
from a lover who doesn’t know me well.
I’d marry if asked.

But these rings bloat the rice indigo
marring late night calligraphy
when we can’t see how
we’ve outstayed another welcome.

REPARATIONS

We dressed too early for the funeral:
at the card table, third pot of coffee
killing time
with button talk,
how stitches never match eyelets
and you as small boy
taught in French how to repair a torn knee . . .

Thick fingered, you thread a needle
tighten each button on the suit jacket
tailored in Thailand
asking if the weave
is worn too shiny
from months in your backpack.

Hours from now I’ll gather the suit
from the kitchen tiles—
stripped as though in flames.
I’ll smooth the shoulder pads
to the wooden hanger
align the buttons
while you stand, near naked
in the living room
Standard Muffler sign
our only light.

IRIS UNFOLDED

What to say except
you unfolded backwards
bled out on the bathroom tiles.

The matador’s thorned banderilla
into your temple:
pale shards
of pre-tempered windshield
the nurse combed from your scalp
forty years before.

Carnations tossed at odd angles
onto your wife’s voice
hovering in the bathroom
above the uneven grid of rumour.

You wanted to tell her
near the Tyvek wrapped garage
you’d shot a groundhog that morning
hid the blood soil
from the kids
beneath a scout tent.

Where to go
but toward a red cape
a matador standing on his shadow—
the unsuspected migraine
that thrusts your history
into a helix
Saturday Post obituary.

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