Middle Ground

Erin Elizabeth Smith

Tonight my ex and I order Chinese and watch hockey
on the couch I bought when I left him. We talk

about the Midwest, the ways we could leave,
about the last time we were in New York

together. Outside it is ten degrees, and the snow
is slick and pebble hard. Who knows what happens

to love. Sometimes it becomes the balloons we loose
as kids. How they rise and rise, never quite disappear

the way we think they will. Instead lost
in the horizon of pine, the space you can’t map

with an eye. Can’t we find the middle ground,
he said, the day I left. I had stared at the door

for an hour before he came home, before he looked
at me and I didn’t need a suitcase or a wedding

band to pry from my finger. Illinois is a strange state –
I want to tell him how it’s made me reckless,

everything so straight and flat you think you could
be a plane. How from the corn, every town

is the same town, silos rising like cities in the green.
The ice shines like shoes on the screen. We crack

fortune cookies and talk about Binghamton,
that last city we were in love. I wish I had

a moment to show him when things changed,
like one where I’m washing dishes, the sun coming

through the window bright and yellow
as cheap beer. Or I was turning to look at someone

in the ice arena parking lot who was turning
to look at me, snow singing so loud in the clouds

I could hear nothing else. Maybe I was skating
circles at the rink, my breath warm and white,

and he was there behind the glass,
the kind of distance that is almost inhuman.

His fortune says he will buy new clothes, mine
that I like Chinese food. There is no prophecy left.

“Middle Ground” was previously published at Gold Wake Press

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