When my first wife and I married
at the courthouse in Palatka–
a fine summer day, if windy–
she was wearing white
it was her second marriage
and I was wearing a blue shirt
with faces printed on it;
and we walked
to a small canapé
surrounded by great oaks
where the Clerk of the Court
read us vows we then repeated,
“For richer or poorer…
in sickness and in health…
till death do us part…”
And I kissed my new bride,
the love of my life,
who’d bear my children,
and I swear I felt so much love
I almost cried.
But what must be realized is
this was just one moment
in two people’s lives
in a world of billions of people
living billions of such moments.
No need to get sentimental about it.
Dad in the Canoe
Monkey with flippers
that keep falling
making a stand
Baton twirler for
a one-man band
So much city street
so little curb
So much strained laughter
so far ashore
He stabs at the water
soaks stockinged feet
The canoe now bounces
creek bed to creek
From tree to sidelined tree
oars tangle twigs
Curses drift downstream
with snapped branches
Something Stupid This Way Comes
She latched onto me like a thing with claws,
and just wanting to get out and join
the anonymity of the crowd, to become
a face among the faceless, I couldn’t find a way
to get rid of her. She looked like a worn shoe
and smelt like death in a box, and we walked
the avenues with the college uneducated,
regular people who made sense to each other.
I was tired with my thoughts and my ways,
and oh how I longed for love but
on my terms this time, not the laws
set by the faithless unfaithful. It was Friday,
time enough to believe this weekend
wouldn’t become another fuzzy nothing,
but first I had to be rid of her. Had to, else nothing.
While we walked, she told me about her father
listening to her having sex in the next room.
I was bored. We sat near a church
and she told me more about her father.
Then her brother. Finally getting to her lovers,
boys who had held her like their last dollar,
told her they couldn’t live without her.
Well, I could live without her. In fact,
I could live without anyone, though a few
touched me in ways I hadn’t expected,
left me almost crippled with misery.
Beautiful faceless women turned every corner,
headed north and south with no thought
given to my existence. It was horrifying.
The one I was with was dressed in black,
face as wrinkled and ugly as a walnut,
and she wouldn’t go. She wouldn’t leave.
I stood and started to walk away from her,
but she tailed behind and then caught up.
Finally, I gave up and put my arm around her
and we walked down the avenue, pretending love.
And I thought, Why do I always get the freaks,
the weird, trapped, lonely, and unhappy?
I thought, Why do I always get the ones just like me?
James Valvis is the author of HOW TO SAY GOODBYE (Aortic Books, 2011). His writing can be found in Anderbo, Arts & Letters, Crab Creek Review, Juked, LA Review, Rattle, Red Fez, River Styx, and storySouth. His poetry has been featured at Verse Daily and the Best American Poetry website. His fiction has twice been a Million Writers Notable Story. He lives near Seattle.