And Then I Was American With Him

Before my first date with my husband,
I stood him up twice; why he still came
that Friday, honestly I’ll never know.
I cry once a day about the distant idea
that he might someday die. Believe me,
I would tear out a lung, a liver, even
all of my straight black eyelashes
to have those wasted two days back.

I’d flood the British Isles to repeat
the two days that followed with him
in a Portland motel where the cashier
mistook me for a prostitute and asked
if we wanted the room by the hour;
its walls were the color of warm shit.
Next door, the Tik Tok Lounge
played a movie projection, yellow

and flickering as we drank fudgsicles
at 2 am and I fell in love with him.
He could read my mind, my words
in his voice through the night, his
fingertips on the apples of my cheeks.
The first time he made love to me
the sweat from his glowing face
fell on my body in the sultry dark
like a rainfall in some far-off arid land.

Thornton unwraps his new robe
in some hotel room in Nashville.
Later today after he drinks gin,
whiskey and brandy, we’ll write
our names inside a hardback book
and leave it in the bar, and then
I will be the one to fall down
in the street. He will help me

back into this bed and fall asleep,
one quiet hand on my stomach
as I bandage my concrete-grey knee.
Now though, he preens in plaid,
playing model for my camera.
It is his birthday. I tell him undress,
and to slide the robe on when
his body is bare. He slinks back in

to find me naked, no makeup,
up on my still-smooth knees.
He undoes the belt, twirling it
like a baton and I hum some
bad burlesque tune for him
to strip to. His hips shake
and I scream honey take it off!
When he pins me on the bed
the whole hotel hears us laughing.

The last time I had diarrhea
and shit myself perching
on our living room couch,
Thornton came to roost on
the ledge of the tub, watching
as I washed my soiled knickers
by hand, kneading the fabric
into china-white soap blossoms

the same way that he kneads
pizza dough on Friday nights.
We stumble to our bedroom
hand in hand like schoolkids
to lay on the bed chortling
about moon kittens, teddy
bears and costumed men
climbing out of oil paintings.

Clad in pajamas covered with elk
he tells me he is riled as if
he has been radicalized until
our giggles erupt in unison.
A sacred language we molded
together: photographs in cork
albums, leftover arugula flowering
right outside our front door
and pink post-its on every wall.

After seven months together
Thornton put a ring on my finger
on a courthouse roof in Seattle.
Once the judge said kiss the bride
we both whispered holy shit,
and then I was American with him.
He says oi and car bonnet for me,
I refuse to say a-loo-minum aloud

but I do swap plasters for band-aids.
Our life is a purple-pink sky
and in a month or two we’ll pack
everything we own into boxes
and we’ll move to New York City.
There will be yellow taxi cabs
pastrami sandwiches at noon and
Thornton’s smile on our fire escape.

These gentle days I am forgetting
England: all its grey bodies, tiny skies
and muzzled silence. I flood the truck
with radio, windows down as I waltz us
up the highway; an unexpected ballerina,
Thornton’s hand squeezing my knee.
Now I know why I had to come here.
It was never this land, calling over the sea
—I knew he was waiting for me.