Emily Symonds

DESENSITIZING AND COUNTER-CONDITIONING

Make me remember I don’t love you. When you approach,
my stomach flutters, my cheeks burn, even while I’m thinking,
“I don’t miss you.”

                                The brain thinks out of conditioning,
the body reacting because of memory, not necessity.
Pavlov knew this. My dog does not actually miss me
when I leave each day. She knows it’s only a few hours,
that I’ll return, but still she acts as if each departure
is a Greek tragedy: the epic absence of the mistress.
My dog devours blankets, counting the minutes
with each thread. The solution: Break her down so
she’ll remember what she already knows. Make her think
she’s crazy for reacting so intensely because of me.
Desensitize her. Daily, I grab my keys and don’t leave,
walk to the door and then walk back, put my jacket on and
sit down, until—so the experts say—she no longer cares.

You’re okay with this—

$13 in your checking account,
your last paycheck 27 days ago,
the 53 cover letters and the 2 interviews,
4 sightings in 3 days of your ex, who stopped calling
15 minutes after you slept with him once—
because it’s summer: 92 degrees, fans on high,
air conditioner churning coolness, no bills for 29 days.
Your horoscope suggested patience, recommended
the outdoors: your bare legs now in agony
from the constellation of 18 mosquito bites
clustered around your ankles and knees.
Your nest egg is cracked, your rainy-day-fund
drying out and the city on water restrictions, only 0.72 inches
of precipitation in the last 38 days, the air dry,
sunflowers wilted, and this—this—is not okay at all.

All poems © 2003 Emily Symonds

Emily Symonds has lived in Missouri, Virginia, Alabama, and now North Carolina, where she plans to stay. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and a BA in English from George Mason University. Currently, she works as Editorial Assistant for Hemispheres magazine in Greensboro. Her poems have recently appeared in The Madison Review, Phoebe, and Red Rock Review.