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House in the Suburbs

By Richard Terrill

Those coffee machines still exist—I saw one at an Interstate wayside in Iowa--the ones where the paper cup drops and dark brew follows, then liquid white, then clear to taste. I want to say marriage is like that machine. Like that hot water transfigured to coffee, pouring from on high. Or marriage is like the coffee’s charge that keeps you awake behind the wheel. But it’s really more like a house in the suburbs--location its single virtue, its chief disadvantage. There’s sufficient quiet, but no ethnic restaurants or arty films. It’s easy to get lost when everything looks the same.

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At rush hour, a day last winter, I forgot to tell you about the three deer, one young, I saw motionless (the way only deer can be), eating grass at the intersection of Boone and 42nd, the field that belongs to the Catholic cemetery. And this morning, while you slept in and I was watering, the pair of robins with the nest on the post top beneath the summer porch dive bombed me from two angles in turns. I call them Mr. and Mrs. Rickenbacker, am encouraged by their relationship, but today fended them off with the hose. I worry they’ll hurt themselves and leave no bird to raise the fluffball still cold and hungry in the nest.

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If I write something addressed to you when it’s really for anyone to read, that’s because I want readers to feel connected to me. To feel they’ve been connected for a long time, and to carry the illusion that I can be trusted, or need to be.  


Richard Terrill is the author of the poetry collection Coming Late to Rachmaninoff (University of Tampa Press), winner of the Minnesota Book Award, and the nonfiction works Fakebook: Improvisations on a Journey Back to Jazz (Limelight Editions) and Saturday Night in Baoding: a China Memoir (University of Tampa Press), winner of the AWP Award Series Award in Creative Nonfiction.  He teaches in the MFA program at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

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photo by Leslie Miller