THE ART OF COMPLAINT
by Lori Levy
Begin with the small, something as harmless as
a chip on the lid of your sugar bowl.
How ugly it is, how it matches your plates
and your chipped front tooth. Don’t stop there;
expand and expound, make it mean more
than cracked enamel: a serious flaw
in your lovely face. Add a whine to your tone
and curse the kid who, decades ago,
threw a rock your way. Make him nasty,
as if he did it on purpose.
When you tire of your tooth, move on to your nose
or your neck, your neighbor’s dog.
Or better yet, your mother’s reminders
or your mother-in-law’s tone.
Sometimes even the sound of I love you—
nothing ever the way you want it,
your coffee either too hot or too cold,
your lover too rough or maybe too tender;
find the fault that will numb your response.
Call it a talent,
the art of knowing where to put the stress—
not on the arm he slips around your waist
or the brilliant red tulips he hands you,
but on the color of the ribbon that holds them together
or the one broken stalk
with the wilted bloom.
Lori Levy’s poems have appeared in Rattle, Nimrod International Journal, Paterson Literary Review, Mom Egg Review, Poet Lore, and numerous other literary journals and anthologies in the U.S., the U.K., and Israel. Her work has also been published in medical humanities journals, and one poem was read on a program for BBC Radio 4. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles, where their four grandchildren keep them entertained.