The Constance E. Pultz Memorial Prize
Katherine, locked in the bathroom
at the C’s old house, columns, sticky plumbing,
doors, arcane hardware, a loose knob, reluctant
tumbler, too modest to announce her whereabouts,
a lock like one of those jewelry clasps
around a woman’s neck, antithetical
to husband hands, why women, plays, need maids—
actresses don’t look that way alone—off-stage
dressers change them, less than a minute.
Cocktails, the high risk era before dinner
books and hosts say should never last
longer than an hour, goes over. Some drinking,
some drinking more. Some in the mddle
of stories they’ve sworn never to repeat.
Eight guests. The vacancy. Failure to notice.
One more man than woman, that age, most men, stay-
at-homes, or dead, the extra man drives two extra women.
Mrs. C. lights candles, urges to table; drinkers, wits, resist.
Each one at his, her place, they descend, boy girl,
girl, boy—no longer—age applicable—"no wives
next to husbands, no same political persuasions—"
how hard this evening has tried not to be
a party, the late husband, we here so widow won’t be
alone. "Someone missing?" "No," (whispered)
"not him" Self absorbed, being waited on, fed
without peeling, cutting, burning. "Katherine?"
"Katherine?" "She was here." "Wasn’t she?"