Ontario, by Mark Levine

Beauty in its winter slippers
approached us by degrees
on the gravel path. We were
hitching a ride out; had been hitching.
Our suitcase freighted with a few
gardening tools lifted from the shed
while the old man, old enough,
looked away. He who
went fishing at night (so he said)
carrying in his pail
a nest of tiny flame.

We were headed, headed out, we
were going in a direction.
No tricks
or intrigue, just a noisy
ineptness.

If that’s a word. Beauty, dipped
in resin beneath its shag,
was always ready with the right
curse to recite to
our nature. It is
in us, it is,
in the smokehouse in the woods and the old man
looked away. Song of
experience.

There were treads in the snow.
We waited for our hitch.
There were train tracks which
stung with clods of this region’s
rare clay.

We were boys, boyish, almost girls.
Left alone on the roof, we would have dwindled.
Incrimination called to us
from the city and its fog-blacked lake,

called to us from the salvaged farms beyond the lake,
from the wilds beyond that.
Guilty was good.

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In Praise of Their Divorce, by Tony Hoagland

And when I heard about the divorce of my friends,
I couldn’t help but be proud of them,

that man and that woman setting off in different directions,
like pilgrims in a proverb

—him to buy his very own toaster oven,
her seeking a prescription for sleeping pills.

Let us keep in mind the hidden forces
which had struggled underground for years

to push their way to the surface—and that finally did,
cracking the crust, moving the plates of earth apart,

releasing the pent-up energy required
for them to rent their own apartments,

for her to join the softball league for single mothers
for him to read George the Giraffe over his speakerphone

at bedtime to the six-year-old.

The bible says, Be fruitful and multiply

but is it not also fruitful to subtract and to divide?
Because if marriage is a kind of womb,

divorce is the being born again;
alimony is the placenta one of them will eat;

loneliness is the name of the wet-nurse;
regret is the elementary school;

endurance is the graduation.
So do not say that they are splattered like dropped lasagna

or dead in the head-on collision of clichés
or nailed on the cross of their competing narratives.

What is taken apart is not utterly demolished.
It is like a great mysterious egg in Kansas

that has cracked and hatched two big bewildered birds.
It is two spaceships coming out of retirement,

flying away from their dead world,
the burning booster rocket of divorce
falling off behind them,

the bystanders pointing at the sky and saying, Look.