Your messages began in late July.
The first was an unpunctuated “Hi.”
You found my post on Wittgenstein astute.
The pictures of my rescue cat were cute.
Though I was wary, you appeared all right.
The details dribbled in, night after night:
Your life in a Midwestern college town,
The marriage you described as “winding down.”
I checked the math department’s database.
Abundant silver hair, a puckish face.
“Professor nerd,” I told my friend. “It’s cool,”
When I agreed to phone you at the school.
For months, I had been feeling dull and old.
I found your voice beguiling, truth be told.
We spoke about the books we both had read.
It fed my soul to have you in my head.
I’d call you on a break, or you’d call me.
You talked about atomic chemistry,
Praised my beginner’s grasp of it as deep,
Ended, “Find me before you go to sleep.”
Online and off, our primal need increased,
You in the heartland, me in the Northeast.
She knew that when the boys were grown, you’d go.
Last week, they’d upped her dose of Lexapro.
2:10am—was it a long-lost flame
I took the selfie with? What was his name?
I’d hardly been around all Saturday.
“A neighbor,” I replied. “He’s also gay.”
You’d wake up often, seemingly alone.
I’d hear the ding and fumble for my phone,
Stab at the icon with the red alert.
You loved me, but you feared I was a flirt,
Considered several comments on my wall,
Made by male colleagues, not okay at all.
Our banter looked ridiculous to you,
Was borderline offensive, in your view.
I got a heads-up from a few of them.
Some guy was raging at them by PM.
I broke it off, then let you in again,
Constrained my dialogue with other men.
By day, the normalcy returned, the fun.
“I’ve never hit it off with anyone
So well,” I whispered to my ginger cat.
“You think he’s drinking? Is it more than that?”
I’d pause before I opened up each text.
No telling, ever, what I’d witness next—
A sentiment that made my world complete,
Or screenshots of the Likes I should delete.
A jangle ended my unsettled slumber.
I squinted at the strange Ohio number.
Her sobbing threats devolved into a shriek.
I slept on my ex-husband’s couch all week.
“Look, babe,” he said, “we all do stupid things.”
I muted my device to stop the dings.
Lorraine Feather is a lyricist and jazz singer. She was born in Manhattan. Feather was an aspiring actress in her 20s, and performed in a few shows on and off Broadway, but was mostly out of work and waitressed extensively. She began singing in clubs, joined a vocal group in her early 30s, and started writing lyrics, which became the primary creative focus of her life.
She has produced 12 albums featuring her lyrics and vocals since 1997. The last four received Grammy nominations, the first when she was 62. She is also a seven-time Emmy nominee and a Critics’ Choice nominee (Warren Beatty’s film *Rules Don’t Apply*) as a lyricist. She began writing poetry a few years ago and recently started focusing on formal verse. She received a Laureate’s Prize in the Maria W. Faust Sonnet Competition in 2019. Feather is the daughter of jazz writer Leonard Feather and the goddaughter of Billie Holiday. www.lorrainefeather.com