“Tumbler” from Roger Bell’s You Tell Me, is a piece about relationships on the surface, but it is also about the question of what may have been.
She tells me her husband is away on business.
I can think of no good reason for her candour
and it settles on me like the fast-falling snow
when I leave the store heavy with groceries.
My husband is away on business, until Thursday.
Why so specific? I think about her eyes, green and frank
instead of, as I should, about the wet, insistent snow
that my wipers cannot clear, that my wheels cannot handle
so that the car veers toward the ditch’s drop-off
and when I correct, I over-correct and slide helplessly
into the oncoming lanes of snow-ghosted traffic
and barely miss the eager wedge nose of a plow.
I arrive home shaken, the near-death adrenaline coursing
an ugly mix of fear, desire, fear, and I think of her, alone
the light waning, the drifts gathering wantonly about her house
and she in the kitchen, in the darkness, in the snowbound warmth
her small hands curled comfortably around a tumbler of scotch
and on the back of her tongue, that tongue that set me thinking
the fire of invitation, she, by the window in her husbandless kitchen
barely moving, barely breathing, waiting, watching, waiting.