The Couple

Timothy Liu

The house is quiet now.

The mattress finally at rest

from all the exertions the couple

has put it through.

Each is so satisfied

there is nothing left to dream.

This is how they will pass the night.

And this is how the thief

breaks in, so quietly

neither the neighbors

nor the children this couple

has never had

take notice—

the tiniest black spot

just starting to settle in

on the crowns of the tomatoes

ripening on the sill—there

where the stems had been.


how did this poem begin for you?

This poem began with observation. The rot on the tomato. Taking pleasure in its notice. The thing had not suggested the poem that followed. The poem itself started with the opening lines. I was meditating on satiety, imagining a satisfaction so complete between two lovers (childless!) that there is “nothing left to dream.” A desire for annihilation. La petite mort. Almost always, we come back to the world, just as we had left it. The fruits of their labors. The consequences. The crown and “where the stems had been.” Or, as Dickinson reminds us, “First — Chill — then Stupor — then the letting go —.”

Timothy Liu is the author, most recently, of Down Low and Lowdown: Bedside Bottom-Feeder Blues. A reader of occult esoterica, he lives in the Hudson Valley and teaches at SUNY New Paltz and Vassar College.
Originally published:
May 8, 2024

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