Jekyll’s Lover by James Penha

It’s not so much waking up to Hyde
as it is wondering, after a day
giggling about Henry’s failed soufflé,
singing the old tunes around the piano
(he recklessly pounding the keys)
and making love no less passionately
than when first we met,
with whom I shall wake.
My eyes blink fitfully through the night.
I stare at the ceiling and listen to him breathe:
his rhythmic exhalations, snortless, ease me
to slumber. And at daybreak, if he slips quietly
from our bed, wary of disturbing me, I can
be certain fairly that Henry will soon return
with my tea and a kiss and a smile. But
if I feel the covers swept like tides from my body
and the mattress depressed with careless
exertions — stretches and scratching — then
I am in thrall to Edward. It will be bad, of course,
but not so bad as the worry of the waiting. He
will hate me, blame me for his predicament,
accuse me of spreading lies of beatings
and broken bones. And, yes, he is more victim
than villain, I tell myself in mantra. And he is
too the Henry whom I love.

A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past twenty years in Indonesia. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and in poetry. Snakes and Angels, a collection of his adaptations of classic Indonesian folk tales, won the 2009 Cervena Barva Press fiction chapbook contest; No Bones to Carry, a volume of his poetry, the 2007 New Sins Press Editors’ Choice Award. His earlier chapbooks of poetry were Greatest Hits (Pudding House: 2001) and On the Back of the Dragon (Omega Cat Press: 1992). Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry.

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