My father married you for love, you say, then changed
his mind. He still lives in his place, you in yours.
Your TV shows are too loud. Buster growls at him,
nips his heels. You say it as you shake your head,
faster and faster until, hair flying, hands wild,
you swat a mosquito trumpeting its miniature hunger
somewhere near. Dust specks, you call them.
They barely tickle your skin.
In the DEET rage, the 70’s in Virginia, mosquitoes
sucked in toxin after toxin until their genes spiked.
It swelled them up large as their appetites,
long as your finger, hippy-child mosquitoes
like faux hummingbirds. Hungry enough to eat the stuff
and thrive on bitterness. Once bit, you were helpless
to the itch—their chemicals echoing like screams
under your skin. You shiver, but lift your head high,
a soldier admiring her torturer: we got all the stronger,
you say, then stare through the window at your failed marriage
before this failed marriage, at the lost jobs, affairs
and broken bones, the burned-down house. How thin
you’ve become since your wedding. How much less
fills your small, clean house when I visit.
He meant to replaster a water-stained wall last year,
its joists left exposed, yellow-backed insulation clashing
with your remaining furniture. You gave up
the loveseat, the lamp he hated, thinking you’ll leave
this place next month or the next, move into his dump,
bring your best and fix it up. Now you sip black coffee,
still looking out your window where real hummingbirds
appear and disappear all day, green as blades of grass, oblivious
to their toxic doppelgangers. Loyal to your yard, they dart
from feeder to flower and back again, furtive as a mosquito
knowing heat the way lovers know the fragrance of the other.
They stay so small, you say, so light, by using up
everything they take in. Always on the verge of starvation.
Angela Rydell has published poetry in The Sun, Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, The Beloit Poetry Review, Alaska Quarterly and other journals. She is a recipient of Poets& Writers’ Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award and holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College.