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Saturday, July 07, 2007


by Rochelle Ratner

You never got to recline
in the maternal tradition,
I never let you.
--James Tate, "For Mother on Father's Day"

When they first met, it was the only comfortable place to sit in his apartment. The sofa with its springs popping out. A single typing chair. The bed with a hotel mattress twenty years old before it came to him. His apartment with the one blood-orange wall everyone assumed would make it cheerful. The recliner had been his parents' gift, the desk chair came from his brother. She was an only child. And those first nights they'd curl up in the recliner, tv on as a background excuse for them cuddling there. Then over time the tv began taking over. They watched the space shuttle crash and the start of the Gulf War. They watched OJ's Ford Explorer driving alone on the highway. She complained of his fat stomach and he retorted that it certainly wasn't from her cooking. They bought a new sofa. She stocked Halloween treats for the neighbor children which he dug his grubby hands into. He made a tv dinner for himself the one night she was out with a friend and he put it in the oven upside down, on purpose. Grudgingly, he lifted the recliner back so she could vacuum under it. He watched football. He drank Heineken. He burped. She went into the kitchen which still had the smell of burnt plastic, opened the drawer, then stood behind him. The safety was halfway down the field with an interception. He ran to a neighbor's.

Rochelle Ratner's latest poetry books include Leads (Otoliths Press, 2007), Balancing Acts (Marsh Hawk Press, 2006), Beggars at the Wall (Ikon, 2006) and House and Home (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003). She is the author of fifteen previous poetry collections and two novels (Bobby’s Girl and The Lion’s Share) both published by Coffee House Press). More information and links to her writing on the Internet can be found on her homepage.