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LEAVETAKING, A GUIDE by Ellen Ritterberg

When, thrust out of,

rousted from

billowy somnolence,

while nuzzled,

nosed into

by heat-seeking missile

while asleep,

their protestations,

imprecations ignored, and  

all demurrals having failed,

some women do what they feel

they must do

and give in.

 

The giant enters.

 

Once goaded,

Compliant, docile bulls,

they remain silent

except for maybe

a snort or two

which may just be breathing.

The getting-over-with is

a mechanical street-

sweeping.

But not painless or clean.

 

A man may,

if so inclined,

praise her,

may tell her she is good or

that she has improved,

may think she likes hearing

this.

 

The act is anodyne to him.

Were there to be a phrase

it might be

sleep interrupt-us

which deserves a hashtag

or sub reddit

or may already have one.

 

A question:

if, having developed techniques

to shorten the act’s duration

should this be regarded

as small victory?

To which it must be asked:

are women ever safe?

 

When a woman decides

she will no longer

drop anchor

she needs to know

there will be rancor

confusion.

The man will harbor

a delusion that,

even with half a lifetime of:

shared bed

children

sundry seldom non-

corporeal connubial-ness,

will feel aggrieved

believing all

was scam, grift

at which point

evacuation

must be stealthy, 

swift

and if at all possible,

aided by others.

 

Economic circumstance

notwithstanding

the safest place

might be Mother’s.

 

And there is a

conclusiveness

an at-one-with-ness

in the marrow gristle

bones,

being alive

to tell the story

with steady beat

of the heart.

Ellen Pober Rittberg is a writer of poetry, plays, and prose. A former journalist, her essays have appeared in the New York Times and other large urban daily newspapers. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in numerous journals and several anthologies. She performs her poetry whenever asked.

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