Two poems by Bruce Spang


X Marks the Heart


My best friend called his former wife his “X”

as if, by divorcing her, he’d rendered her

to a box on a tax form that only needed

an X, or had to be left blank, which is how he felt

about his X, Mary. She lived a mile from

him, on a cul-de-sac, second from last,

a two-story ranch with four bedrooms,

an expansive porch that faced a creek

demarcating the back property. They’d

lived there for decades, long enough

to raise two children, send them off

to college, long enough for him to be

sick of her constant complaints—

his forgetfulness, his socks being left

inside out, his leaving the checkbook

unbalanced. Maybe X was what he’d

done for years whenever she’d snap,

“Do you know how to turn off the lights?”

He blotted her off the page, not even

turning to acknowledge her. It was as if

he’d typed a line in a letter before computers

could obliterate a wrong word or a phrase

poorly said, by hitting one key xxxxx

to x it out. His X. Not love OOO,

not kisses XXX, Maybe he doesn’t

wonder why, when I talk to Mary,

she calls him David and speaks

with a certain nostalgia for the days

they were a family. Maybe for him

it’s all about cutting off a quarter