"Shuttle" by Betsy Johnson-Miller

Illustration by Tom Moore
July 25, 2017
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"Shuttle" by Betsy Johnson-Miller

This blog is about Betsy's poem "nails and wings" which appeared in NAR issue 302.2 and is available here.

            Dog paddling across a gigantic sparkling lake while weeds grab at my legs—that’s the metaphor for marriage that floated to the surface this morning. Unlike falling in love, which is generally effortless, delicious, deliciously frustrating, frustratingly rewarding, but most of all finite, staying in love is like Sisyphus and the stone. Staying in love is not a once and for all. It is work that is never done. I love you now because look how you gave me the last of the coffee even though I know you didn’t sleep well last night. I do not love you in twenty minutes when you pop by and eat the top of my muffin, that center piece I’ve been eating around and saving for my very last, most delicious bite.

            Something else about being-in-love is that I can hide my weird well from everyone else, letting it out only every now and then, like when I mentioned in class yesterday that I believe the blue eggs my chicken lays are magical, and my students laughed at me and then we moved on, but the one who vowed to love me until I am dead gets a front seat to my nonstop weirdshow, which—unlike a long film that leaves you shaking your head and saying, “What in the hell was that?”—never ends.

            I gave the man I love a hammer in this poem, hoping he’d nail some wings onto me. Because that’s what I thought I needed. But in the poem (and in life), that man is smarter than I am. He knows about the dark pit in me that I have attempted to cover with evergreen branches. He knows I don’t need to be punctured even more. That’s why he took a handful of black sunflower seeds from our garage and sprinkled them on my back—so I could whisper, “Look at all these wings I have,” as we crawled into bed tonight, as I pulled this man’s arm over my naked body.

Betsy Johnson-Miller lives in Minnesota, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Boulevard, Agni (online), Poet Lore, and Cortland Review.

Illustration by Tom Moore, an illustrator who lives in St. Louis, MO.

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