Stan Galloway

Link to home pageLink to current issueLink to back issuesLink to information about the magazineLink to submission guidelinesSend email to


Self-Help for Abandoned Lovers
After Li-Young Lee

Take it from me:

If you see, walking along the street,
someone wearing the same shirt or shoes
as your lover once did,
look away and watch windows afterward.

If you go to a restaurant where you once ordered
the cava that made you giggle and feel eighteen again, or
the Chicken Vindaloo Vesuvius whose spices
you tasted on each other’s lips for hours after,
choose, instead, the thing that least appeals,
because your pleasure in that place
will never rise so high again.

If, in a crowded elevator, you detect
the scent of sandlewood your lover
would dab on in the mornings
after the happy surge of morning kisses
to go out into that other world,
count the floors on the panel
and re-count them while your
excitement ebbs.

If you hear “your song,”
which seemed to always play
when you would meet for dinner
or while driving to a weekend rendezvous,
reach out and turn the knob, or push the button,
the way you once poked and twisted
parts of love’s anatomy, ignore
the muscle memory that sends
a lovely little shiver through your
abdomen, or lower, the way a baby’s cry
sends out a sonic plea to every woman’s breast
while shopping in the supermarket.
You must shut it off. Replace the irreplaceable.

If you notice chafing underneath the cuff of a co-worker,
and remember when your lover asked you last
to tie her wrists or bind his ankles
don’t linger on that moment
with all its pleasant associations  
the flood of pleasure in the tug
between your strain and the restraint
the sense of full possession
the willing capitulation
between your lover and you
lengthening time’s fabric
hearts racing and slowing
simultaneously –
No! remember pencils must be
sharpened: get up and walk away.

If you see an advertisement for
that far-off destination where you met
one Christmas, flying, each, across
a continent from different vectors
where you made desperate love
for hour after hour, fearing this might be
the last time you would ever meet
and knowing nothing, neither
space nor time, could break the tether
of your hearts, even if the tether
of your bodies might be left slack,
turn the page or close the screen
and think about ordering oranges
for your grandparents’ gift
not the oranges that you and your lover
saw and felt along those impossible far-away
streets, not the magic of a Christmas
warmed inside and out because you were together
in a fairy world where your love was not
condemned – no, not those oranges,
just a cramped box of green fruit meant to ripen
in straw transit through a customs house.

If you are reminded of that lover
by any of a thousand little things
that stick your senses through the day,
take a moment to close your eyes,
pretend that life is whole,
pretend that curses help,
pretend that when you open up your eyes
the world will be more wieldy
and the hurt will be less raw.


Stan Galloway is the founder of the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival at Bridgewater College where he teaches writing and literature. He is the author/editor of ten books/chapbooks, including Endlessly Rocking (Unbound Content, 2019), Just Married (Unbound Content, 2013) and The Teenage Tarzan (McFarland, 2010).