Chère Malaise, poem by James R. Whitley

      Scratched on the men’s room wall at
      Major Nutmeg’s Lonely Hearts Pub,
      this priceless gem:
      Every man is only what
      his mother allows him to become.

      Does that explain it then?
      How you always made my pulse race,
      no matter if you did it by
      dancing a striptease for me in church
      like a hellbound jezebel or
      igniting a puerile argument
      about the superior cola?

      Unworthy punching bag that I was,
      I adored everything about you,
      inelegant as you were even in
      a merino mini and new Manolo’s—

      your wicked smile when
      you discovered my porno collection,
      your unedited woman smell
      during your period,
      your third nipple, sweet
      as an extra drop of molasses.

      Truth be told,
      I miss you less than I do the thing
      that was growing between us, struggling
      to break through the unforgiving
      shell of our egos, the thing we surely
      would have christened “Respect.”

      Back then, idolatry erased any
      tragic flaws you might’ve had,
      these Oedipal eyes only saw
      your red claws, your white teeth,
      an end to the vexing problem
      of this empty bed.

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Robert Abel