I have to be careful
when I bring up the braces
you were wearing on the day we met,
though I tell everyone we know
behind your back.
You wore undignified overalls
because you oil painted your studies,
not caring if you looked like a little kid.
Your classmates' ruffled artist outfits
were more carefully considered.
Is it adorable
that I thought your soteriology sexy,
or that we stopped to talk with tiny winged giraffes
on our off-campus walks?
Is it cute or creepy when I tell the story
of how I said we'd get married
and you told me to get lost
but instead I called you at three every morning?
For your senior project
I was your husband the elephant,
you a hedgehog.
Your classmates thought we were into S & M.
That was hard work, that year
probably harder than the babies
that followed, five of the best
and none seemed to get any easier.
You not painting.
The house you wanted
for the lawn you said,
then burdened yourself with more
garden every year.
The shop we opened you loved so much,
its failure. We began to count
the years by which cats we adopted,
You had your braces removed
at age eighteen, although they did nothing
to fix your teeth being small like a little kid's,
and our third boy has your teeth.
Your concentration then was
hard to look away from,
your baby-faced cheeks and exploded hair
bent over a canvas,
I wanting you to look at me as intently.
I wrote you youthful poetry,
which you said was flattering
and you thought was nice,
that you remember none of today.
Which is why right now you are completely unconscious
that when you concentrate you
look exactly like those poems.