The Return of the River Merchant's Wife by Elliot Richman                   



The Saranac crashes on ancient rocks,

smooth and dark as the Glock’s barrel,

with its honey-colored larva to breed

           death in my brain.


But my hand shakes too much.

I smell gun oil and lilacs,

the drying oils of paintings

I will not be compelled to complete.


Deep in the eddies of the river,

naked trout spawn millions of eggs

to be eaten by insects and weasels.


I close my eyes, attempting

in stupid Zen

to envision my own nothingness.


I manage to take everything

out of my mind --

except my mind --

when the River Merchant’s wife appears.


“Havin’ a nice day, hon?” she asks.

Fourteen hundred years of waiting

for the guy who never comes

has made her a tad ironic.


She takes the gun from my hand,

engages the safety,

and brings my palm to her check.


Her tears are real, just as the river

is real, just as her hair is the color

of the night river and the 9mm’s barrel.


“I will sleep with you one more time,”

she says again “Just one more time. No more,

I am not your death whore."


“I know my husband will understand

when I meet him at Cho-fu-Sa,

far from the river of swirling eddies.”


We make love, without

the passion of youth.

Yet, she still excites me,

tangled black hair,

upon my pillow,

kimono opened,

breasts like a girl,

for she does not age

like me, the rest of us,

my teeth rotting,

my skin going limp,

just as my dick.


Still, unlike her husband,

I have avoided -- at least for now,

that river of swirling eddies.


When I awake,

I smell coffee,

and glazed muffins,

freshly baked from

the wood stove oven.


She is smoking a cigarette

and doing the Sudoku puzzle

in the local paper.


She does not bother to look

up at me.





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Elliot Richman