Literary Orphans

Critique by James Valvis

There is much to like about you as a wife.

Our backstory is interesting and the romance

built to a nice (sexual) climax, but I must say

ever since we wed I have been bothered

by your clumsy use of language, your inability

to employ concrete imagery, and especially

your overt sentimentality, the way

you gush your sugary and porcine love

as if you know nothing of postmodernism.

If anything will kill a modern work of art

it is unearned emotion, especially love, and yet

you love this ordinary gentleman (me)

without the least bit of sense or rationale,

as with a kind of willful antipositivism.

Couldn’t you at least sneer once in a while,

reference Sisyphus when you bake or knit?

I don’t find a woman like you believable

with talk of eternal fidelity and sacrificing

for your man. Blech! I mean, come on!

Sure, it’s as you say: a happy marriage

is never possible unless the couple give in

to unabashed sentiment, but where’s the fun

without arguments, cruelty, and divorce?

Have you any idea how corny happiness is?

Do you want us to be seen as hacks?

I know you have it in you. With a little work

and some guidance from current fashions,

we too can be as miserable as everyone else.

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James Valvis is the author of HOW TO SAY GOODBYE (Aortic Books, 2011). His poems or stories have appeared in journals such as Arts & Letters, Barrow Street, Chiron Review, Drunken Boat, Juked, Natural Bridge, Rattle, River Styx, The Sun, and many others. His poetry has been featured in Verse Daily and the Best American Poetry website. His fiction was chosen for the 2013 Sundress Best of the Net. In 2014 he was awarded a King County 4Culture Grant for the Arts. A former US Army soldier, he lives near Seattle. Visit him at: 


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–Art by Charles Simms