on the page magazine

issue no. 5, autumn 2001


Quid Pro Quo

by I. Halpern

I peeled the useless gold from my finger
it's still in my rosewood stash box
with my expired passport whose stamps
recall other entries and exits which
seemed particularly ecstatic at the time
now reduced to references in my journals

for the final decree she wore gold shoes
with no socks on or underwear beneath her silk
carried a snakeskin bag she'd gotten on rodeo drive
documents which listed her possessions distinct
from mine regardless of community property

her uncombed hair still where my eyes go to stare
one more part of her primal glamour
if I didn't know the tsunami underneath
I might have proposed to her again
and if accepted
torn up our writ of divorce
rushed us back to paris to bed then to sleep late
in place l'étoile sated until our dryness
led us to our morning bowl of coffee where
we'd feed the wild birds in sacre coeur

instead we signed the papers
initialed the dates in triplicate
then paid the lawyers for their unholy work

we stepped outside by the flagpole
under the badly wrinkled stars
and stripes sagging limply in the quiet
as we said goodbye the sidewalk shook
from a dripping yellow cement truck
rolling by mixing mortar
for someone else

I. Halpern lives and writes in Central Islip, New York, where he records books for the New York Braille Institute World Library for the Blind and Seeing-Impaired. He presents his own poetry and conducts workshops for Poetry in the Schools and National P.E.N. Writers in Prison. His poems have appeared in the Long Island Quarterly, the California Poetry Quarterly, and Beyond Lament, a publication of Northwestern University Press.

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