Cathleen Calbert

Shut the Fuck up a Notch

is what I said to my husband
             after his not unkind “take it down
a notch” suggestion to yours truly,
             who does not tend to take suggestions
especially well. But he also was the one
             who declared himself to be “Dog Cathy”
in this stupid Goofy voice, and I happen
             to think there shouldn’t be a Dog Cathy
or that at least in the very name lies
             some sort of marital critique. Sure,
I’ve called him Doggie Daddy as in
             Augie Doggie if you’re a certain age.
(We lived with dogs then; I’m not insane.)
             And so this became “Daddy,” then “Dad,”
then “Gags,” and somewhat circling back,
             “Gaggy,” onto “Bag o’ Pigs,” and “Fatty,”
which is cute, right, because he’s not
             fat and in fact has the ass of a ten-year-old,
which, yes, I do comment on because
             I’m adorably playful while he never says
anything about my own womanly tush
             (because he’s not insane) or my clothes or tits.
And because my husband is no poet—
             “You don’t know what it’s like to live
with a poet,” he once said to me as if
             it were a bad thing when everyone knows
how delightful poets can be over cereal
             in the morning—he mostly just sticks
to “Sweetheart” and “Darling.” “Barling,”
             I’ve replied, but this doesn’t go anywhere.
For some reason, he also vetoed “Baby Wife,”
             wherein I do cute Betty Boop oohs at him.
Every other funny pose I take for his amusement
             (my true duty as a bound spouse) he’s guessed
Bird or Alien or, more often than I’d like,
             Praying Mantis, which does not seem
to bode well for our future connubial bliss.
             Well, ours is a long marriage (obviously)
and we do manage to crack each other
             up to quell the fear and boredom (death)
while seldom descending to the depths
             of the more straightforward “Fuck You”
or categorizing all each other’s failures,
             many for him but for me just a few.

CATHLEEN CALBERT’s poetry and prose have appeared in many publications, including Ms., The Nation, The New York Times, The Paris Review, and Poetry. She has published four books of poems: Lessons in Space, Bad Judgment, Sleeping with a Famous Poet, and The Afflicted Girls. Her awards include a Pushcart Prize, the Sheila Motton Book Prize, and the Mary Tucker Thorp Professorship at Rhode Island College.

Read more by Cathleen Calbert:

Cathleen Calbert’s website
Two poems at The Poetry Foundation
Find Cathleen Calbert on X as: @CathleenCalbert