By William Aarnes

She’d looked forward to the dinner,

understanding he’d invited her

to acknowledge her diligence

in picking loose the snarls

of the Burbank estate.

He was right to insist

that she try the mussels

He talked of his son’s mellow baritone,

his daughter’s getting in to Stuy,

so the evening went well

till-after she’d declined dessert-

he complimented her

for having the smarts,

only in her second year with the firm,

to untangle the equivalent

of Jarndyce and Jarndyce.

When she laughed at the allusion,

he asked how she’d liked Bleak House.

She recalled feeling drawn in

by Mr. Bucket’s acumen

but finding Esther cloying.

His eyes on hers, he asked her

to re-imagine the novel

with the plot complicated

by Jarndyce’s having a wife

whom he continues to love

as his admiration for Esther deepens.

“We’d have the housekeeper

as the possible homewrecker

and a much truer novel,

don’t you think?”

Declining the offer

to share a cab,

she took the subway home.


William Aarnes teaches at Furman University.  His poems have appeared recently in Kakalak, The Vocabula Review, and The Dirty Napkin.

Comments are closed.