she could love you
like a young girl,
giddy and gawky,
her smile as simple
and guileless as a nun.
She could show you
shot through with yearning
so transparent you could see
her heart as clearly as the yellow finch
scuttling leaves in the sweet gum out back.
She could peel desire from you
as awkwardly as the first time
stripping a peach of its fuzz.
But she is forty full
and well into fidelity
that rides her shoulder
like a pet monkey
chained daintily to her wrist,
so that when she shakes your hand
or reaches for your undoing,
her monkey coos into her ear,
sweeps his tail
across her spine
as blind to age
as she could make you.
Sit on my lap, here, he directed me
and I would sit down up on his knees.
He threw bread to the squirrels,
nickels to the young Albanese boys who crowded
around our porch like a pack of terriers
starving for everything. He told us
stories the war denied him about cousins,
brothers, of their wives, children, successes,
all fictional, all lies, all of them dead as charity
by the end of the war, the one from which he
escaped to grow fat in America.
He shingled and tarred roofs, tin
flashing neatly pinned to eaves and overhangs
bright as medals on the breasts of houses,
as nickels tossed to the boys,
as bullets Gustav carried in his pocket like change.