Birthday Poem with Tentative Divorce Agreement

Scott Beal


When last we talked without lawyers present
we faced across our dining table
with open laptops and income projections.
You keep the table clean these days,
swept nightly of papers and the kids'
sticky fingerings. I hoped you'd offer
a glass of red and you did. I drank
so much wine in that house. I'd dig the cork
from a bargain shiraz and fire up a browser,
then bury each bottle in the bin so you couldn't
call out how ruthlessly I killed them,
even when we seemed durably happy,
even before the final summer when booze
was how I slept. You stock better vintage
now, as if my absence has brightened
your palate. We'd mediated
ourselves to distraction for months
at hundreds of dollars per hour
and all the tenuous cordiality on earth
couldn't make it painless. You were ticking
checks off our list and this plume rose within me,
not dawning relief that this could be
our last niggling over terms and forecasts
but that we were getting along, in these chairs
where our daughters sit to half
their dinners, beside the places you and I
once took to pass the salt and fill
a crossword. You looked happy
at what I could give you
even if it was closure, and this plume rose
as if thousands of particles lifted
to catch the late light, glitter in smoke,
as if an anchor had punched a lakebed
to claim in the midst of turbulent currents
a place worth staying.