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Ann Fisher-Wirth – Ⅱ

  Answers She Did Not Give to the Annulment Questionnaire





(After 14 years of marriage, 22 years of divorce, he wants an


annul: to bring to nothing; to do away with; make of no effect;

invalidate; make null and void; cancel. Ad, to + nullum,

nothing, neut. of nullus, none. Syn. see abolish.




See me, a girl

school dress



organdy curtains


now I bite the polish

that has strayed beyond my nails


ignoring my mother, keeping her company


soon I’ll be told to set the table

every night

unpack the food

dry the dishes

clean my room



But this

is the not-yet



About a boy


I wanted so much

we married




A boy and girl

entering the restaurant at Manka’s Czech Inn

at Inverness by the water where they

could afford two nights’ honeymoon, blushing,

dressed to the teeth,

scraping every bit of flesh from their grapefruit




At first


years later


it made me wonder


I assumed


and how two

ever know what                             is feeling




A girl by the freezing altar vowing

this would be her husband for always,

this would be her Church for always,

even if she was wrong, even if it came

to doors slammed and her locked outside

in the rain, and the children crying




So crazy

about being his wife

insisted on ironing his boxers



Too poor to buy a bed,

we jammed twin beds side by side

but one was higher,

so we slept stairsteps

like drifting-apart rowboats




I called it separation


he called it

writing his dissertation in the mountains




You have your secrets too,

but I will never

see you nor

the lines around your eyes,

bitten fingernails, pores

inflamed with drink, or the kindness

that keeps you lingering


over this questionnaire—


Never see

what he wrote about me—


What do I call you—

Fathers? well, Fathers,

again it’s daddy watching

from the sky

as my high school boyfriend

strokes my thighs

in the warm back seat

of his souped-up Chevy




No and again





But don’t you think

sometimes God works in us through

fevered fleshed imagination—




I used to wish

we would die in 24 hours

and then what would be

the point of silence? What if

I could stand naked

before him, soul-naked,

tinged with fire,

what if I could tell him what would save me?



I am not

yet I hurt them



They were out—he said

Come get your things then


I stood there in the kitchen


A voice said, Do it now, die—




That girl

even then


oh pity


oh pity them




The bridge and groom we were

long ago—if I could

pass my hands before their eyes—

bring them peace—the tall boy

in the rented tux, the girl with her wings

of hair and the loopy lace

on the white satin bodice—




I tear the papers, I have no

answers for you, Fathers

but I have two prayers




Make to nothing now the path that led

to the house next to the chicken farm

in Upland, California. And the rocks

and thorns in the chaparral, the yuccas

flourishing their white candles on the mountain

where that man my first husband guided his

black cycle carefully down the winding road—

make them to nothing and my arms around him.

Cancel his birthday lasagnas and cakes,

the salads we ate with our hands

on the porch steps, cancel the ears of corn

we gnawed, slick to the elbows in butter and garlic.

The pomegranates’ scarlet star-shaped flowers

outside the window where I lay

suckling my baby son, July so hot

I could barely move—make them of no effect,

erase the pattern of leaves through glass,

the tracery of light and shadow.

          To…nothing, neuter, of nullus, none.


And explain that, Fathers,

to the children of this marriage?



Make to nothing my self-hatred,

strangler fig, stone, let me

open my hands and let the river

run through them at last, let the cold current

move through me, over me. Cancel

my guilt cancel

his fist through the wall cancel

my children rocking on their beds

the first night I was not there. Cancel

every instant they would vanish

down airport corridors

at the end of school vacations cancel

their airplanes rising let me

magick them back into the sprung night let them

know my love let me

even now cradle them.

As for him let him

die not thinking of me not

hurt by me not

wanting any longer any stray hair

or thumbprint scrap of lace recipe chant

charm or croon that was my passage

through his world. Abolish make nothing

invalidate if that is what he wants.

Let him kneel

with his wife at the altar.