My Husband Shoots Me by Jen Karetnick

My Husband Shoots Me

with Botox, 31 times
in my forehead, the shallow dish
of my temples, the nape of my neck
where as a younger man
he’d touch his tongue,
a fencer’s foil.

He does not hold
the syringe like a love letter
or wield it like an apology
although he says a quiet
“I’m sorry” every time
the needle pierces

the cartilage under skin
with an audible crunch;
fat, a loosely guarded prisoner,
has long since escaped my face,
muscles pulled tight
from migraine after migraine.

I follow his directions
to look up, down, wrinkle
my forehead like a chow
so that he can measure
where the nerves are,
avoid making my eyelids

droop more than they
already do. He assures me
the puncture marks will fade,
the medicine diffuse, block
the transfer of pain, lengthen
the staccato of light.

Three decades ago,
he practiced tapping my joints
as if they were ice
with a rubber hammer,
thumped my ribs, dug
under bone for my organs

and lymph nodes. Now I reap
expertise, fanned by
his trajectory as he wasps
around me, and I wait, still
within this vortex, to be stung,
and stung, and stung.

by Jen Karetnick, first published in jmww, from The Burning Where Breath Used to Be

Editor’s Note: The surprising title of this poem immediately grabs the reader’s attention, but it is the last two lines that grab the heart.