Separation Pay

Our marriage was that oak
entertainment center assembled at zero-drunk-thirty.
0300 we drunk drive to Wal-Mart, 
my paycheck fattened by DOD dependent allowance 

too big for Saturn’s trunk
(now a glossy rose-colored tongue) flapping
open and shut, open and drunk
driving down highway 10 home to assemble disassembled components:

½ gal tequila, Black & Decker drill bits, 
Jack-In-The-Box picked up when you ran out after I sliced
my hand, slammed hammer hole
in living room wall. Phillips head bored through
unfinished sides of upside-down 

particleboard shelves reverse engineered incognito-black
lacquer, like the fucked-up semi-gloss we show through
in unapologetic contrast, still facing
the world. Still holding citrus candles.

You hated my smokin’ 
Marlboro Reds. In our house, issues of Cosmo
stacked like tan shelves, black sandwiching frantic
letters of concern—mother and grandmother return addresses read unreturned, 
unopened, unread— I loved it all.

Even the TV we stole outta Jake’s trailer when he left town. Even
our picture frame spider webbed, broke—boot heels coming down
hard, spilt shards of pregnancy, shredded artery— Only picture you ever sent me
is a pool on the asphalt. Gulf and ocean, 
wishes and dead limbs—the might-have-beens.


Aaron Graham hails from Glenrock, Wyoming, population 1,159. He served as the assistant editor for The Squaw Valley Review, Poetry Editor of Muse /A Journal and is presently Assistant Poetry Editor of the Tishman Review. He is a  Marine Corps veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. His first book “Blood Stripes” was a finalist for Tupelo Press’s 2015 Berkshire Prize and his chapbooks “Skyping from a Combat Zone” and “The Hurry Up and the Wait” were shortlisted for  2016 and 2017 The Sunken Garden Poetry Prizes respectively.