Poems and Texts

Excerpt from “The Husbands” by Diana Cage

She sat next to me at my father’s funeral. Her dress was gold, with an asymmetrical neckline and billowy sleeves. It was belted above the waist, a little too close to her bosom. Her chest was leathery from the sun, her blotched skin wrinkled up like crepe paper, but the tops of her breasts were smooth, pulled taut, the tan skin shining like glazed loaves of bread on the cover of Martha Stewart. She was wearing a lacey bra, evidenced by a dip in her neckline as she leaned forward to place the hymnal in its wooden pocket. Her breasts sit high even when she’s undressed. I know this because I’ve seen pictures, taken by her lover, she’s lying on a blanket near Lake Temescal, squinting slightly in the sun. There’s a bottle of wine, a picnic basket, an uneaten sandwich on a paper plate, and my mother’s naked body. She looks pretty good, actually. Can you say that about your mother? Is it too weird? Is it even legal?

Three weeks earlier I’d been in Brooklyn, walking through Prospect Park with Ian who was explaining to me that I was using Tinder wrong.

But sometimes Tinder sends me notifications that say, “You have new people interested in you.” I told him. “And when I open the app the little fire thing is red, so I click on it to see who liked me.”

“That’s not how it works,” he said.

“Are you sure?” I asked, not believing him. It seemed like a bad system, as if no one were at the wheel.

He looked at me, surmising my disbelief. “I’m right about this,” he said.

“But how will I know who I like if I have no idea who the people are who like me?”

We’d wandered to the Boat House, and stood looking out over the lullwater. The placid surface covered completely in the tiniest green plants—azolla caroliniana—a species of fern native to the area. It had somehow taken hold and was thriving in the lake in a way that threatened to choke out other aquatic flora and starve the fish of oxygen. A few swans broke the surface of the green murk, the opening left in their wake quickly closing behind them.

“Yes, I’m sure,” he said. “Tinder doesn’t show you who likes you unless you also like them.” He used the app all the time, and had a hoarded list of women he’d liked who’d then liked him back. He never contacted any of these matches, but often visited the list; satisfied by the potential it held.

Soon we arrived at our destination, which was Grand Army Plaza, or more precisely the green market where I hoped to buy mint and basil plants to farm for the Vietnamese noodle salad we’d made practically every night since he’d arrived. A group of bicyclists had stopped next to us, straddling their bikes, making some kind of plan for their evening. We overheard one of them say, “We can be in Chelsea and then just bounce over to Bushwick.” And this was so funny to us we repeated it over and over to each other for weeks.

Diana Cage

Diana Cage is the author of five books and editor of three collections of fiction and essays. Her work examines bodies, sexuality, power, and lived experiences of queer sex and gender. Her most recent book, Lesbian Sex Bible, won a 2015 Lambda Literary Award. Diana lives in Brooklyn and teaches at Pratt Institute. January 15 is the official release of Cage’s chapbook, The Husbands, on Occasional Remarks: Prose Chaps and Audio Tracks. Chapbooks will be available for purchase at reading; audio download available online.  

Related Events