Lexicon on the Half Shell

by Drew Perry

I tell her it’s something like hiring a marching band
to say something simple, and she says You mean
with the singing and all that, too? and I allow as how
it might be a chore to sing and oompah the tuba

all at once, and that settles matters until later
over dinner when I try to explain why it seems
notable that the woman down the hall from my office
has gone from marking the days off her calendar

one at a time with an even careful black-markered
slash to a slightly sloppier counterclockwise spiral,
and she says Your office at school? and I squint
at her and say Yes, that office, of course that office,

and that’s all she seems to need to know
about much of anything until later still when I say
I saw a possum coming out of a drainpipe
on my way out of the building today.

Off a train? she says, and I say Sure, why not
a train, it’s as good as anything else
for possums, and she says Why don’t you
speak more clearly and say what you mean,

and I say I’m trying, I’m trying, and on the TV
the weatherman says 60 percent chance of rain,
40 percent not, and the newspaper says
25 percent off and it says 10 percent increase

in the gross domestic product, and I point this
out to her and she says Gross, and I say Gross,
and we ease into that old comfortable game for a while,
a half a glass of wine and one more careful evening

of the tiptoe acrobat ballet circus, the gymnastics
and genuflecting and curtseys we know so well,
and outside on the lawn the marching band breaks
into formations we can’t quite puzzle out.

Drew Perry’s fiction and poetry has been published in a number of magazines and journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Black Warrior Review, New Orleans Review, Nebraska Review, DIAGRAM and others; a story appears in New Stories from the South 2004. He lives with his dog in Greensboro, North Carolina, and teaches in the undergraduate creative writing program at Elon University.