Janine Certo

They're on their fourth dog,
a little late

to family gatherings where
relatives have stopped asking.

They've got a guest room
painted crisp white, a ceramic

pitcher of lavender, books
on the nightstand: Soul

Without Shame, Creative Cooking
For Two, How to Travel.

Kids sometimes stop by their
house with its different rules:

the chocolate drawer, music
continually on, a piece of fish

with its head on and a strange
leaf served at bedtime

hours. They drink cocktails
in a garden with no plastic

swimming pools, no swing sets.
They read on an unstained couch
in the shape of an L.
Not a shriek. Not a crash.

Not a sound. Isn't this nice?
They tell themselves

there's more time
for each other, hobbies, aging

parents, that there's overpopulation.
Sex with the door open, the night

a calm ocean. Twice they saw
a child that would have looked like their

own. That ad with a girl under a tree,
tendrils at her face, a branch

in her mouth. And those twins
at a gelato stand, the boy tugging

one parent as the other paid,
the girl turning to catch this couple

staring, the one who gave a half smile,
then turned away.

Janine Certo's poems appear or are forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Mid-American Review, New Ohio Review, Nimrod and Quiddity. Her poetry collection, In the Corner of the Living, was first runner-up for the 2017 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. She is an associate professor of language and literacy at Michigan State University and can be found at

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