In a Nashville Liquor Store, I Realize I Don’t Love You

Outside, late snowflakes fleck the car,
reflect the red-green strands of light leftover

from the holiday. Three days after New Year’s,
we are buying champagne. I watch you pull stiff

twenties from a pocket, the cash you made tonight,
enough for a bottle and six-pack, enough

to drink ourselves to sleep. We have just come
from a party where the room unspooled,

a girl collapsed on the sofa gripping a fifth
of whiskey, her skirt hiked up around her thighs

to expose fine hairs, dark cotton underwear.
You collect change, your shadow in the window

flickers with fluorescents over the aisles of mixers,
of rum and vodka, jewel-like bottles of gin,

the TV monitor the clerk, briefly, glances from.
The crowd had pressed around the girl,

then, bored, moved off to other rooms.
I watched you pass a smoke among the boys

and I could still feel your hand span
the back of my neck, jugular to jugular,

the pressure a hot buzz in my ears.
I need to tell you, as you gather up

the booze, hold open the door, then pause
to light a smoke below the flashing Open sign,

there are things I can never forgive us for:
like the blonde wisps that escaped her underwear,

your slow nod as I told you she will deserve
what’s coming. I thought she sickened me,

but I was too afraid to cover her, to roll together
her soft thighs, pull the bunched hem down.

Laura Davenport is the author of the chapbook Little Hates (Dancing Girl Press, forthcoming). Her poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2009, Crab Orchard Review, Meridian, and New South, and her non-fiction essay “On Literary Relationships” was featured in the Passages North Writers on Writing blog.