If I Told You I Loved You, It Would Be the Wrong Thing to Say

You come in from slaughtering the chickens,
your hand still spattered
with blood drops; and your eyes
have that quiet I’ve come to accept
on days like today—

where we’re aware of the order
of things, of the fact that
the same hands that hold the chickens’ necks,
slowly swinging them above your head
before carrying them, upside down,
into the killing cone
for the final cut

are the same hands
that coax me to love, the same
tender fingers I’ve come to expect
just as much as the sunrise in the morning,
its blush on the day
rosy as your skin after a shower
before you slide into bed with me.

You stand in the doorway, now,
a white towel in your hands.
You smile at me with your quiet smile
(the one I’ve come to expect, to want)
as you take your place on the pillow
and, arms akimbo behind your head,
your eyes blink, close, sleep.

Sarah A. Etlinger (@drsaephd) is an English professor who resides in Milwaukee, WI, with her family. A Pushcart-nominated poet, she is the author of two chapbooks Never One for Promises, Kelsay Books Nov. 2018; and Little Human Things (forthcoming from Clare Songbirds). Interests include travel, cooking, and learning piano.