The Wisdom of Others
Concerning Infidelity

"Adultery is an evil only inasmuch as it is a theft, but we do not steal that which is given to us."

~~ Voltaire (1764)

"Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love; it is the faithless who know love’s tragedies."

~~ Oscar Wilde (1891)

"The Harlot Visits the Cemetery" ('Til Death Do Us Part)

A lock of hair lifted by November wind
falls across the cigarette she dangles from her lips.
It strikes her funny. They would have liked seeing
her head go up in flames. They would have said

she was getting her just desserts. If they had known.
But no one knew. There were cigarettes then, too ---
afterwards; vintage merlots --- before. And a journal
he shared with only her. The same book

she has tucked beneath the leather jacket she wears.
Pictures of his performance on stages in New York.
Leaping lightly from the wooden floor. Dance
itself. Photos of poise suspended in mid-

flight. And personal thoughts he chose to record
before a wife, a lover and a mortgage befuddled him.
She’d stolen nothing but love, so she believed
she had a right to slip the journal from the shelf.

Everyone else at the wake was preoccupied
with the widow, and hams, hugs and flowers.
No one realizes the harlot needs comforting
as well. She couldn’t fall to her knees.

She couldn’t wail too loud or too long;
had no right to a public display of dramatics.
In the cemetery after everyone has gone,
she falls to her knees, wails too loud, too long,

flogs the freshly mounded earth with her fists.
She needs to pull him from the ground, pound
his skeletal chest, demand to know why
he’d chosen to die as he had lived. The dance

suspended in mid-flight. Those riding past
mistake her for a widow getting her just desserts.
Exhausted, she rolls from her knees to sit
with her back against his tombstone for support.

Opens the journal, reads his own intents aloud
to him; lights cigarette after cigarette. Reads until
his virtue freezes solid in a frigid November wind.

© 2000 MJM

Featured in the February 2001 edition of Mentress Moon


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