State of the Union

by Karen Kovacik

after Elizabeth Acevedo

Although I am his wife, I’m no longer his lover.
I am not the washcloth that fondles

his penis and balls, nor the spoon
of sorbet on his tongue. I am not oxygen

tubing that swishes behind him like a skirt,
rival imagined from literal air,

who comforts him during strolls around the house
and cuddles him on the quilt-heavy couch.

Since the hospital, he has slept there:
I make sure his bedding is fresh.

But I am not the pillow that nestles his head,
nor the sheet that lies over him or under him.

Yet it’s my hands that lather his scalp,
my name he yells out in the night.


Karen Kovacik is the author of the poetry collections Metropolis Burning and Beyond the Velvet Curtain, the translator, most recently, of Aperture by Jacek Dehnel, and the editor of Scattering the Dark, an anthology of Polish women poets. Her poems and translations of contemporary Polish poetry have appeared in such journals as APR, Beloit Poetry Journal, Boston Review, Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, and Southern Review.

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