Bone of my Bone and Flesh of my Flesh
I can’t always refer to the woman I love,
my children’s other mother,
as my darling, my beloved,
sugar in my bowl. No.
I need a common, utilitarian word
that calls no more attention to itself
than nouns like grass, bread, house.
The terms husband and wife are perfect for that.
Hassling with PG&E
or dropping off dry cleaning,
you don’t want to say,
The light of my life doesn’t like starch.
Don’t suggest spouse—a hideous word.
And partner is sterile as a boardroom.
Couldn’t we afford a term
for the woman who carried that girl in her arms
when she was still all promise,
that boy curled inside her womb?
And today, when I go to kiss her
and she says, “Not now, I’m reading,”
still she deserves a syllable or two—if only
so I can express how furious
she makes me. But
maybe it’s better this way —
no puny pencil stub of a word.
Maybe these are exactly the times
to drag out the whole galaxy
of endearments: Buttercup,
I should say, lambkin, mon petit chou.
Set down War and Peace,
just for a moment, and lift
your ruby lips to mine.
And talking to the dishwasher repairman,
the vacuum cleaner salesclerk, the woman
in the Blue Cross billing department
I could explain that I’d already sent the co-pay
for my soulmate, my duckling,
my chocolate-covered cream puff.
Maybe it would brighten her day, too.
Hello, I might say, you precious,
you jewel, O queen among queens,
darling, honey pie, angel,
my sweet patootie.
Ellen Bass,, “Bone of My Bone and Flesh of My Flesh” from The Human Line. Copyright © 2007 by Ellen Bass. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC, on behalf of Copper Canyon Press, coppercanyonpress.org.