"While You Were Out of Town"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
April 25 2006 6:47 AM

"While You Were Out of Town"

Click here to listen to Robert Wrigley read this poem.

I left the man with the steam cleaner all alone in the house and watched from my shack as he poured bucket by bucket the gray brackish water that had rinsed our comings and goings from the carpet. That morning I had moved

all the small items—hassock, coffee table, magazine rack,
and more—to the hardwood and tile to make way
for his work. Also the two end tables, the floor lamp—
everything one man could lift by himself,
including the dog's toys and the window shade ropes.

And I would have noticed, had it been on the floor,
your black lacy bra, hanging by a strap
from a dresser handle, but I'm sorry, there it was,
after he left, still hanging, though I noticed it hung this time
by the left shoulder instead of the right,

as though it had fallen as he cleaned the alley
next to your side of the bed, that trouble spot
where the dog sleeps. Yes, that's it, I'm sure,
it had fallen, and he, in one professional motion,
had put it back, as I had put it back

just the night before, having noted
for whatever reason one might note such a thing—
even before I held it to my lips
and took in the rich, cool scent of your absence—
which seemingly negligent strap it dangled by.

Robert Wrigley's books include Earthly Meditations: New & Selected Poems, Lives of the Animals, Reign of Snakes, and the forthcoming Beautiful Country. He teaches in the graduate writing program at the University of Idaho. 


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