U: from an alphabet for the first year of marriage

by Jeff Oaks

Underneath everything is everything else. Underneath this desire is that desire, underneath which is still another desire. All the way down to the first desire, I suppose, where we began. Was that first life-itch to feed? To split? To run? To fight? What is it the first bodies couldn’t do without? Was it pure, a clarity? Sometimes I try to go down into it. Was the first marriage a splitting of a cell into its twin, twinning and twinning for eons until something small broke and had to change? Soon what was perfect rhyme everywhere became slant, off, half, eye, strange. I watch my husband look at me sometimes and I wonder who he’s looking at, what desire has turned him toward me. Sometimes a desire to bask in his desire stretches me out, sometimes I feel an urge to clean my beard, check my nose, suck my stomach in. Underneath the promises of the wedding vows are the obligations to selflessness, whose trials can be tough to undergo. Underneath the ceremony lie the anniversaries with their various avatars–paper, glass, sunlight, struggle, wealth, patience. The dog understands that there are now two people who will feed him, whom he can rely on for comfort and exercise, but he also knows he’s the lowest beast in the house. He used to be merely lower. Or maybe that’s just what I think is underneath the reason he still howls like a wolf when M comes home late from work.