In Praise of Spouse*
“spouse, a hideous word” – Ellen Bass
I love this word that doesn’t force you to watch
football while drinking bad beer or to mow the lawn
even though we don’t have one, that doesn’t force
me to make our bed or to have dinner ready by five
each night even though you’re the one who loves
to cook. We can be ourselves in this word, choose-
our-own-adventure in this life we write together. I
love this word that sounds like a person has become
part-house, all home, the safest place to whisper
even hideous words, to be loved though known.
*"In Praise of Spouse" was selected by Limp Wrist founder/editor Dustin Brookshire as a finalist for Limp Wrist's 2021 Glitter Bomb Award.
Baking bread—yeast, cinnamon—
and coffee welcome me through
the doors. They’ve retiled the floors,
hung new rolling pin and stand mixer
art on the walls, placed poinsettias
on each little table to welcome us
after almost a year closed, after
we thought we had lost them forever.
I’ve waited a week for the crowds
to thin. I’ve come right at opening.
The only other people here at this time
are older. We smile with our eyes
but spread our bodies far apart.
I look past the bread wreaths to scan
the menu, to make sure the roster
is correct: pear and almond scone,
tomato and cream cheese focaccia,
chocolate hazelnut twist, cinnamon
roll, gruyere and chive loaf (on
Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday).
Somehow, when we’ve lost so many
lives and livelihoods, these breads
have come back. And I’m crying
when I give my order to the young
woman who doesn’t know how
to work the new computer system,
and I try to explain that this place
was my comfort, a routine that carried
me through my spouse’s chemo, and
she keeps apologizing for the delay,
and I keep thanking her for being
here, for giving me bread again.
Each time I
open my mouth,
my jaw snaps
like a rude
diner. When I
click my bones
again each night
in prayer, I
picture God bustling
by, apron pockets
full, pretending not
to hear me.
Katie Manning (she/her) is the founding editor-in-chief of Whale Road Review and a professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. She is the author of Tasty Other, which won the 2016 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, and her fifth chapbook, 28,065 Nights, is newly available from River Glass Books. Her poems have appeared in American Journal of Nursing, The Lascaux Review, MORIA, TAB, Thimble, and many other venues.