Maryann Hazen Stearns


(i) him

He hopes she likes his aftershave,
tries to smell good for her.
He dreams he stands behind her
with her skirt hiked up.
He says, Do you like it like this.
He understands the language that groans.

He cries when he's finished,
and wakes with a start.

He worries about the dirty sheets,
touches the dampness
and feels horny all over again.
He pretends she's with him.
He wants her to roll over,
sees her back arch, reaches under.
He hears her speak the language,
wonders if she really likes it.
He's really quite certain
that he does.
(ii) her

She is always anxious.
She wonders if she is at fault,
hears herself breathe too fast
to catch her breath,
sees her breath in the air.
She is out of breath.

She wants to lie down. She wants to lie.
She pretends all the time to be someone else
or there is someone else who cares.
Her mother said, Always make yourself
available to him. After all, it is his right.

She feels something in her hair,
touches it; crumbs from his beard,
from last night, from his meal.
She worries that mice will come and
cries as she laughs at the thought.

She understands how it works. She says,
Yes Dear, No Dear, Maybe so Dear
and dreams of release.
She tries, God how she tries and
hopes she has the strength to wait
until he's finished.

(iii) you

You hope she's asleep before you climb in,
try to be quiet, careful as you enter.
You dream of a warm barn filled with hay,
a milkmaid who wears just an apron.
You say, Don't be stupid,
this is because of you
or, Don't be stupid,
this has nothing to do with you.

You understand only that it feels good.
You cry out in pseudo-pleasure.

You worry she'll figure it out when
you touch her and feel nothing but
impassivity or rejection.
You pretend not to notice because

all you want is satisfaction
from the waist to the knees.
Your father said, She owes you that much.
That's all part of the bargain, son.

You see with one eye in the dark.
You hear hot hot breathing
but it's your own and you wonder
if you can get it twice in a row.
You are never disappointed
with your performance.

(iv) me

I'm full of unspent eggs. I wonder
if they accumulate, if it matters. I hear
a storm approach on the horizon
of our headboard. Thunder comes.

I see black moon-bags under my eyes in the morning.
I want peace with this demon. I pretend
everything is fine. I feel off-balance,
cushion myself for the fall.

I touch your back; touch your muscle,
worry that it's because of me,
worry that it isn't.

I cry to myself in dark silent places.
I understand these things
until I don't understand anymore.

I say I'm happy and then wonder
if I'm a liar or if it matters or if
I'm dreaming. I dream we fight quietly
as I furiously knit sweaters
that are much too big
on needles that shine like silver swords.
Oh, I knit like mad but no one
wears the sweaters.
They fit no one.

I try to bring contentment into our lives
with curtains, pies and neat hair.
I remember Mama said,
make yourself available.

I hope to make you happy.
I hope I look all right.
I hope I'm attractive enough, thin enough,
smart enough. I hope to succeed
but I am full now.
Aren't you?

(v) us

We are often on the verge
of communication
and wonder if there is anything
left to say. We hear words well up
from our throats, see expressions choke
by the gesticulations of our hands
and crossed legs but we want more
or less, depending.
We pretend to give a shit.
We pretend we don't.

We haven't changed. Have we?

We feel we deserve the truth,
touch the edge of each other's ears
but never go further than that.
We worry what the other will think,
cry about the lack of understanding.
We understand nothing
about misunderstanding
and cannot comprehend
why we do not understand.

We dream of connections, try to connect,
hope the wire that dangles from the socket
is still alive.

(vi) them

They hope it will end,
living from day-to-day,
night-to-night, week-to-week and
they dream of what might have been.

They say they have it all.
They understand emptiness.
They cry once in a while
just to make sure
they still have feelings.

They worry about who will give up first,
feel trapped in their own skins and
pretend they're not haunted.

They want more. They want less.
They want to stop wanting,
see the past slip away,
hear voices at the window.
They wonder if they should open the door
but they're not home anymore anyway.

About the Author

Maryann Hazen Stearns, author of poetry collection "Under the Limbo Stick," has poetry appearing in print publications throughout the US as well as Canada, Switzerland, India, and Britain, and over 350 electronic publications. She is currently listed in "A Directory of American Poets and Fiction Writers". She teaches "Poetry As Pastime" at Sullivan County Community College, NY. She is also an occasional Poetry Editor, Poetry Competition Judge, and CMT. She is Guest Editor and contributor of Sol Magazine, as well as an active member of The Alchemy Poetry Club, the Woodstock Poetry Society, and Poets & Writers. Maryann has won numerous awards and competitions with her work. More information:

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