Empyrean, or Being Led Through Victoria’s Secret for the First Time


Only by the grace of her suggestion—

she’d been looking for a bra anyway—

and believing men must feign nonchalance

as if we ourselves purchased lingerie,

I shrugged off the trip as of no importance

so that she could indulge my intention.


Like my Beatrice among laced panties

I was led through a scattering of light

and encircled by the Primum Mobile

to navigate God—rayon slips upright

on hangers and spinning on wheels, an aisle

of wood bureaus and negligée marquees—


in love not like the first time but after,

in love in time to appreciate her.

Young together but thank God not too young,

no longer pretentious, anxious, unsure—

she, leading me to where the plush bras hung

by the straps, critiqued their stiff underwire—


not too young that she would only invite

me to her room to see that camisole

but held it up in the store, the sheer gown,

asking whether I’d enjoy it at all,

her torso wearing the latticed hem like a crown.

Oh! neither was I too old to excite.

R. Charboneau

Food Left on the Table


They’d been at each other’s throats so long now

it was impossible to know how it started

or if it even mattered except to locate,

out of spite, that feeling of betrayal,

of having given all oneself in marriage

only to have, in the worst moments,

that same commitment used against them,

returning in love and driven away

again like two planets crossing orbits

around some immense gravity, tonight

it was the dinner she cooked every Friday.

The table alone was lit like a stage play,

one triangular light cast upon them,

with manners like lines they interpreted

from some lost, unfinished play of O’Neill’s.

“Was that man at work today?” she asked.

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