"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. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
  Life
Outward
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Oct. 17 2014 1:33 PM What Happened at Slate This Week?  Senior editor David Haglund shares what intrigued him at the magazine. 
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Space: The Next Generation
Oct. 19 2014 11:45 PM An All-Female Mission to Mars As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.