When Billy Collins
Met Anne Sexton

She comes to see him like a pig in a trenchcoat,
performing an autopsy on a candle,
and tells him to flee on his donkey
if he still values his old dwarf heart.
Love, she says, with some women,
is like a long distance telephone call.
Say what you have to say and hang up.
And don't call collect.
He is reading the encyclopedia today,
running a finger of inquisition along the page,
marveling at the comments made in the margin.
"Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love,"
he finds quaint and reassuring
and there are ketchup stains.
That's blood, she says, my blood.
Have you got anything around this place
I can kill myself with again?
He hesitates, awkwardly trying to close
the open pages of the Victoria Secret catalogue.
He is embarrassed by the end tables
with genitals he owns and wishes he hadn't
been playing Art Blakely so loud.
She reminds him of some Irish cows
he once saw lying down in a field
waiting for the rain.
He politely mentions a Monk with a snow shovel
he knows, Buddha with snowshoes,
and then reads the mail.
She slits her wrists with the letter opener.
He is not use to her kind.
I am a secret agent, she deadpans,
torturing myself all over the place
and still not talking.
It's easy to confess in this dress, she says
and lights another cigarette.
Billy frets, he gave up smoking years ago,
he's worried about the Bonsai tree
and recites to it a favorite haiku.
I learned to write poetry from watching
an educational television show she admits
and sticks her head into the oven.
Just keeping in practice she says.
Staying in shape for the big escape.
He proudly tells her he has written
hundreds of poems without ever once
mentioning death.
The less said about that, the better,
she tells him.
Besides it doesn't rhyme with much.
That's why I write free verse.
She slips out of her dress,
lies back and spreads her legs.
She is still beautiful.
He bemoans a world without hats and asks,
"Do you know a word that rhymes with Carolina?"
She smiles slyly and draws the shade.
He wonders whether having intercourse
with a dead poet would be in his best interest.
Outside the jagged flash of lightning tears the sky.
By now even Lolita has children of her own.
People in glass houses shouldn't write poems, Anne sighs
and dies, again in his arms.
--- From Life Sentences
Jack Conway
© 2002 North Country Press

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