The moths that had been getting in all week
have found the only lamp
left on in the living room.
They strut and flutter across its fabric.
They loop and dip above the light
they love so much. Only the darkness
can save them, but he knows
they will not fly to it. Now that he has
repaired the screens, now
that the breeze can filter over
the nude body of his wife
on the August sheets, now
that the commotion of their landing
in the bed won't waken them, he can
crush them with a tissue
without fear of their return. The living room is
bruised with the powder of their wings,
the smudge of their guts
as he pinches them out against the wall.
He leaves their marks
for the woman to find. He wants her
to know that he loves her
this much, that he killed these moths
for her—even the ones that were big enough
to almost get away, even the ones
she would have wanted him to spare.
The Man With a Piano Strapped to is Back
The man can't make it up the stairs anymore,
so he listens to his family moving
above him in the old routines
of bathing and sleep. He wishes one of them
would come back down, pull up a chair, and play him
a song of love or a song of hope,
though he hasn't been tuned in years. His wife
offered to take some lessons
or to buy him a piano he could play
in addition to the one he carried. He said
he'd rather she just polish the one he had.
He could see it was full of smudges
from the children's jelly-sandwich hands
when he caught himself in the bay window,
at evening, as the birds died down all over
their part of town. It needed to have one decent chord
banged into the keys so he could feel it
reverberating through him like a purpose.
When it was time for bed, he couldn't take
the piano off, and his wife complained
he was bruising her as they slept
or made love. Each morning, he clawed
his way off the mattress they kept
on the living room floor. The straps dug into his shoulders
and his gut. There was absolutely no give,
and though he sometimes tried,
he couldn't get the blade under the fat bands
of leather. Ironically, he has never learned
to play, but of course he couldn't reach the keys anyway.
The only music he'll make is when he falls over dead.
He keeps telling himself he has this
to look forward to, the chord of 88 fingers.
Charles Rafferty's tenth book of poetry is The Unleashable Dog. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Oprah Magazine, Prairie Schooner, and The Southern Review. Rafferty currently directs the MFA program at Albertus Magnus College. contact • more