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Variations On A Theme By Ray Carver




Just when he had given up thinking

he'd ever write another line of poetry,

she began brushing her hair.

And singing that Chopin Polonaise

he liked so much.

The one about George Sand, whose

real name was Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin,

the Baroness Dudevant.  "She repels me"

he'd said at first. But then he

changed his mind on Mallorca.




A year last summer Flea repaired my life--

drilled mortises, installed a new screen on

the porch door and stopped the damn 

leaking of the bathtub faucet. The basics

atwhich I had proved singularly hopeless. 

He worked silently, the strong chin steady

as he turned the Phillips head screws.

Measure twice, cut once, and the joints 

fit snug. The simple miracle of carpentry.

When he finished, he wiped his big hands 

on a towel with a cluster of grapes on

the corner. I watched awhile, admiring 

the handyman’s grace, how he patiently

put my house in order. Now he sits at

home, watching the frozen fields. The

mitre lieson a bench in failing light. He

says he doesn’t want us to see him

this way. ”Look to the hinges. Remember

me this way”. I understand. And so I do.

High Maintenance

Medium Maintenance


While switching hands

on her cell phone

she asks me, “Am

I high maintenance? What

does that really mean?”

I tell her that I think

she’s medium-high, like

the heat for melting butter.

“But what does that mean?”

she asks again. 

I sigh, look out the window.

A Chinese woman walks by

with her Pekinese dog

on a rhinestone leash, 

shoulders hunched before

the wind. She has on the

most elaborate feathered hat.

So I say, “With a woman

who’s high maintenance,

you must remember to 

tell her that everything 

she wears is perfect.

With a low-maintenance woman,

the clothes she wears are immaterial.

“And medium high?”  she asks.

With a medium-high, I say,

you need only tell her

when she looks fabulous. 

The rest she already knows

better than you.