Hala Alyan

Wife in Reverse


In the old museum, we both avoid looking at the taxidermic display. The animal heart inside the animal chest.


Before the evening has ended, you have kissed each one of my knuckles. We undress like suitcases opening after a long trip. In Nashville, in Spain, in the backroads of Georgia, when you start the car engine, my first prayer is for you.


You like to hear about the women in my family. They burn dinner. They divorce and suck their stomachs in. They love red coats and expensive perfume and, when the winter light fills the streets in that final, lonesome way, they will walk into a stranger’s life and make it their own.


If a girl doesn’t have land, then man becomes land.


Married, fogged. I would leave you. I would take all the blue pills. There would be no state hospital. We took a flight to skip winter. What I hated I hated in you.


Honeymoon antibiotics. Heat like a long whistle, making a shelter out of leafless trees. When the chlorinated pool appears in the white crags, we use our bodies to catch light.


I’ve come to love your silences. I surrender myself like a ransacked city. You take the nails but leave the hammer.


Things we talked about in courtship: superpowers, cities, what makes our fathers cry, the grandmother you hadn’t met, how Palestine isn’t a theory, love as binocular, love as fishhook, alcoholism.


Things we didn’t talk about in courtship: night terrors, God, where we’d spend Christmases, abortion, how I love to be the last girl to leave the party, bulimia, what made your exes cry, narcissistic injuries.


We won’t forgive each other for the future. I see you pocket the pack of Camels but still ask if you smoke.

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