Suzanne Cleary


                                                                                  for David

Anyone born anywhere near

           my home town says it this way,

                        with an s on the end:

                                    “The lake is cold but I swim in it anyways,”

                        “Kielbasa gives me heartburn but I eat it anyways,”

           “(She/he) treats me bad, but I love (her/him) anyways.”

Even after we have left that place

           and long settled elsewhere, this

                        is how we say it, plural.

                                    I never once, not once, thought twice about it

                        until my husband, a man from far away,

           leaned toward me, one day during our courtship,

his grey-green eyes, which always sparkle,

           doubly sparkling over our candle-lit meal.

                        “Anyway,” he said. And when he saw

                                    that I didn’t understand, he repeated the word:

                        “Anyway. Way, not ways.”

           Corner of napkin to corner of lip, he waited.

I kept him waiting. I knew he was right,

           but I kept him waiting anyways,

                        in league, still, with me and mine:

                                    Slovaks homesick for the Old Country their whole lives

                        who dug gardens anyways,

           and deep, hard-water wells.

I looked into his eyes, their smoky constellations,

           and then I told him.  It is anyways, plural,

                        because the word must be large enough

           to hold all of our reasons. Anyways is our way

of saying there is more than one reason,

           and there is that which is beyond reason,

                        that which cannot be said.

                                    A man dies and his widow keeps his shirts.

                        They are big but she wears them anyways.

           The shoemaker loses his life savings in the Great Depression

but gets out of bed, every day, anyways.

           We are shy, my people, not given to storytelling.

                        We end our stories too soon, trailing off “Anyways….”

                                    The carpenter sighs, “I didn’t need that finger anyways.”

                        The beauty school student sighs, “It’ll grow back anyways.”

           Our faith is weak, but we go to church anyways.

The priest at St. Cyril’s says God loves us. We hear what isn’t said.

           This is what he must know about me, this man, my love.

                        My people live in the third rainiest city in the country,

                                    but we pack our picnic baskets as the sky darkens.

                        We fall in love knowing it may not last, but we fall.

           This is how we know home:

someone who will look into our eyes

           and say what could ruin everything, but say it,




“Anyways” is reprinted with permission from Trick Pear (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2007).