One drink in I asked my date about the ring:
copper, flat, snug band on his right-hand
fourth finger. He began to tell its secret.
Self-bought, he said. Only his own therapist
knew and any minute I would know the reason.
I waited. Was he married? gay? engaged?
Apparently he wasn’t gay and/or married or engaged.
In order to secure his promotion, he bought the ring
knowing no one at work would ask the reason
he wore it if he acted like he had no secret
but kept it on the right, ambiguous hand.
He’d done the research, himself a therapist.
He got the raise, our supposedly single straight therapist
pretending to be settled, domestically engaged.
I decided the evening was a question of hand
over stated status over stated secrets.
However he explained away the ring,
the ring said coupled, unavailable, for a reason,
and there had to be a deeper, stickier reason
other than advancing his career as a therapist.
He smiled and said, “You’re staring at the ring.”
In opposing statements, he was certainly engaged.
Lips said single, ambitiously free. Hand
said off-limits stable, with or without a secret.
Doesn’t every emblem hold a secret?
Doesn’t every gesture carry a reason?
He slid off the ring and placed it in my hand.
“Try it on,” he said, playing lover playing therapist.
I played patiently along, cocked my head. “Engaged?
me? Never,” I laughed and rolled my eyes at the ring.
Each of my naked fingers swam in the wide, copper ring—
as if my shaking fingers could hold no secrets.
“It’s okay,” he said. “You’re angry,” he said. “Don’t engage,”
I thought. As if he already knew my reasons,
I, two drinks in, blurted out to my date, this therapist:
“Marriage kills.” Nodding, lingering, he opened my hand,
retrieved his ring. “It’s okay,” he repeated—with reason.
Therapist or not, he’d engaged me. I was had and was
about to be had, said my empty open hand. No secret.
DEBORA LIDOV is the author of the chapbook Trance (Finishing Line Press, 2015). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals including The Paris Review, Salamander, upstreet, and Tarpaulin Sky. She is a medical social worker and lives in Brooklyn.
image: Titian, Portrait of a Man with a Quilted Sleeve (detail), 1509