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Raphael Maurice


The Natural Order


My wife tears her hair
As if to pull out some memory
As if to look pretty enough
To dance for me
This dance is death
The gun is near the record player
The music is humming
She need only reach
And dance again
Across bucking floors beneath night
She is hungry for a new life
And I am not here to tell you this
I am not even in the room
In which she dances
I light a cigarette
And tell her that even before we die
Even if at our own hands
We must be good
We must behave ourselves
Even though our cells
Are in revolt
And the last of the money coughs
Up blood
And her hands tremble
And my arm is sore from smashing
What I wish was a body,
Crumpling the great trashcan
That I wish was someone
So tonight
She sleeps after some pills
Next to me
And I am certain that something has been
Knowing I will not sleep
Knowing something fractured
As the record keeps skipping
Each time she shifts near me
In our frozen marriage bed.

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The Natural Order

It was the time the wicker sofa flew down a ravine.
During rains when my father stole into the shadows
along a highway where the rigs screamed.
A buck-fifty, soaking wet.

It’s time to make accountings of what’s been seen.
To hope what was seen can be recalled.

To pray for an aerial view, a plotted grid of green (why?), a garden-patch,
the eye’s strength, the sure-shot bee-bee kept (still inside the knee)

as a reminder that your first love was God.

God came and shot you in the knee, point blank.
It was in a pasture where, from time to time, motorcycles
went by like bumble-bees.
God was a boy then, laughing with fire in his hair,
begging no word of it to His mother.

Over the hill the ballplayers came
and took the field.  As you pitched,
the lower leg of your uniform was veined with blood.
Sodas all around, the fizz of sugar in your face—

When Dr. Johnson (sincerely came) and tried
to pry it out, it didn’t come.
The middle of town, brown vinyl and zipped up building,
sun singing against the day.

Then rain came again and you were big in love.
The way it must be, skipping through a kerosene-town,
poking around the right knee, staring at the field
of green and gold, the wind-scorched dream.

He’d rarely bought ice cream. 
But there were so many books to read.
Enough always to digest and wait on.

And the forest was heavy and dark.
It was an amusement park into which not even God could go.
His wrong height, wrong hair, wrong—
and so rejected from the ride.

You kept this love mute within your chest.
When the rains abandoned Gerald,
you took his hand, his life, his side.

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Raphael Maurice is a translator and poet. His work appears in the UCity Review, Likestarlings, River Bluff Review, Piecrust, and Monkeybicycle. He is a graduate of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, where he studied poetry. He lives in St. Louis with his wife, Jill Elizabeth Maurice.

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