Husband, Wife

by Laurie Klein

the lives of people like you and me
are one long argument. Desires on one side,
woodpeckers on the other.

Never a moment of real silence.

—Aldous Huxley

She hates the break of day, that rattle-pate beak
concussing the calm. So loud she can’t think. Won’t.
Will not wake again to his back. She’ll never
renege on the debt they can’t crack, the bone-jolt
clatter between them. She refuses to sell—
and how can he ask—
                             it’s their home,
despite the red-headed clamor. The dark bill attacks,
hacks at the shutters. She knows
that manic action initiates courtship. Go figure.
Later, a separate cadence will signal
the haven he’ll shape for his mate—
                             but oh, the bitten threshold.
Saving air pockets amid a mineral mesh absorb
shock after shot. And perhaps, a strike
back, to unending regret. Still, she has to say,
how ingenious, bird-wise, that sinewy tongue:
it retracts like a braided leash, into the skull,
                             cradling the brain.
Discord is a jackhammer’s burrr
and pock, grating as her travel alarm,
harsh as his ringtone. Urgent. Urgent as owing.
Imagine punching in call after call, dear God,
trying, trying to get through.


Laurie Klein is the author of Where the Sky Opens (Poeima/Cascade). Her work has appeared in The Southern Review, SWIMM, New Letters, Terrain, MAR, Louisiana Literature, Barrow Street, and elsewhere. She lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Image: Bob Brewer

Image description: two woodpeckers look at each other over the top of a fence post.