the known world

Marty McConnell

I want to tell you about the day when everything
went right. good milk in the fridge, a set
of clean and matching socks, the train

undelayed, fish sedate in the broad
lake, the wind was light and everywhere.
We hadn’t met yet

and everything was possible.


I keep time with the insane
because they’re honest. The same
could be said of animals, but I’m often
allergic. You told me at the beginning

you were crazy, but I didn’t know
it would make you hate me. Now
I’m the keeper of this haunted

aquarium. Once a week, on average,
you wake up from a nightmare
so awful you let me put my wide arm
around you. I call this marriage.


I am in many ways a failure.
But I did love you.


I tried to make a home here
amid the rubble. You said
this was the city you wanted.
There’s a man with his hands

around your wrists again. My love’s
not enough to make him leave. He stands
at the edge of our mattress. His hands are full
of bathtubs and nail guns. He has so

many hands. I can’t get him to leave.
I don’t know how to remind your body that you
love me. Every girl I’ve ever been says we knew
it would come to this:

I am a house. I am a house I am a house
I am a house I am a house I am a house I am
a house I am a house I am a house
I am a house I am a house I am a house

and you can’t come in.


The best thing about dating the damaged
is how sane you look by comparison.

When the kitchen’s on fire, nobody’s checking
the closets. In another time, we might have been

an opera. But nobody dies for love anymore.
I would very much like to stop now.


Do you remember there being a moon
when we met? A hole in the roof let
the light in and we said Ah, beauty

is flaw. And flaw, beauty. Do you think
we were fools? What happened
to that roof? And the moon?


I want to tell you about where I’m standing
right now. There’s a garbage truck crashing
in the alley. Your ties a knotted octopus

on the table. I can hear the filament’s
high C note in the light bulb that’s about

to go out. I miss the way you used
to look at me. I miss you looking
at me. I understand the killer whale

who ate her trainer. We all
make promises we can’t keep.

Marty McConnell received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, and her work has recently appeared in Gulf Coast; Indiana Review; Crab Orchard; Beloit Poetry Journal and is forthcoming in Best American Poetry 2014. Her first full-length collection, “wine for a shotgun,” was published in 2012 by EM Press.

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