Trying To Read The Gulag Archipelago On My First Hundred Degree Day
Married to my first husband for one year, in our
apartment with only its bedroom air conditioned,
I waited until someone on TV announced it was
really one hundred degrees outside and walked
to the courtyard through our hall’s airless murk
with the sole book on our shelves I hadn’t read.
I sat under a crabapple tree on brown grass and
watched the afternoon sun spattering the ground—
bits of white heat that wobbled a little. There was
a breeze somewhere but I couldn’t feel it. I wanted
to know what a hundred degrees felt like and this
was it: a desiccated leaf next to me that I crumbled
in my fingers and blew away. Sweat at the back of
my neck, under my hair and my breasts, even in
the shade. An icy mountain of a book I could not
manage to read and still haven’t. Luminous green
bottles of beer inside, in the noisy refrigerator with
the chicken for dinner and a marriage that showed
no signs of failing, yet. Everything for the first time,
trying to make it all part of me, to breathe in and hold.
Editor’s Note: This poem’s oblique suggestion of doom is offered via clear, concrete imagery, offering the reader an ominous future with studied resonance.