The Barge Worker’s Common Law Wife, A Letter

by Jon Thrower

(For Li-Po)

You biked out from County Road 213
heavy metal t-shirt and small-engine forearms,
catwalked all the way to the creek, you said.
Before any of us left the big wheel,

before the ancient pains crouched
in my thighs and my flower,
before the white cars came and the men
with hubcaps pinned to their hearts.

Then we were married and you screeched tires
on the blacktop while I stayed home syphilitic
learning to watch the broth come to boil
learning to watch the pig-fat barometer.

Spring comes on bragadocious
as you in those Levi’s for the last eleven years.
Before you lit out for bargework
on the Mississippi like it was any other job.

While I waited on the stoop in East St. Louis
the neighborhood came like a punch in the belly
and now I don’t even go out anymore,
canceled the paper and the magazines.

Three years ago you quit coming home
and the checks stopped waking up in the mailbox.
I haven’t gone to see the river, don’t know
if it still trims the arching Soulard chin of the city.

I am old and the grass in the yard
hides underground in a burnt cap.
If you are coming across 70 or on the metro
let me know and I might wear a decent blouse.

Jon Thrower was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on Broadway Street during the winter solstice of 1973. He now teaches at Southeast Missouri State University where he is a founding member of Prescription Strength Poetry and a partner in Ligature.