"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. 



Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B


Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.