Credit is a Fickle Mistress

by Jane Eklund

With the decline of the art of letter writing, the mailbox at the end of my driveway is typically filled with two things these days: bills and catalogs. One day I set about imagining my way out of the former and into the latter.

When I open my credit card bill I have to sigh a little
for the models in the catalogs, the ones who gaze back at me
with their come-hither looks, the ones who assure me
that I would be beautiful, if only I were already
beautiful and wore fashionable clothes.

While I make out the check, I imagine handing it directly
to the blonde who pouts out from page 31,
which is conveniently located on the coast of Nova Scotia,
a place I’ve never visited but am well outfitted for.
She takes the money, tucks it in the pocket

of her pleated-front poplins, in classic navy,
$38.50, then goes back to staring coolly at the Bay
of Fundy. She’s clearly not interested in me
or the stack of bills waiting like a suitor
on a kitchen table in New Hampshire, where it’s still winter

and the ocean does not beckon like a promise or even
a lie. It’s true I’m in over my head; I can’t even think
of anything to say to this woman who wants nothing
but my platinum MasterCard as compensation
for my few salacious thoughts, so long as they don’t interfere

with her walk on the beach in the interest of capitalism
and tasteful sportswear. Besides, she’s too young, too tall,
has a boyfriend waiting in a tan corduroy blazer
by the lake on page 60. Credit is a fickle mistress:
It’s the price you pay for shopping by charge,

for wanting what you can’t afford, for getting a season
ahead of yourself. By the time I’ve finished emptying
my bank account into separate envelopes, she’s already
on another beach, in Nantucket, this time in an ecru
bathing suit with scooped back and scalloped neckline,

glancing petulantly toward the sea-green sea, under the blaze
of the burnt-umber sun, and – oh – the cerulean sky . . .

This poem was previously featured in the New Hampshire Poet Showcase.

Jane Eklund’s poems have been published in journals including the Georgia Review, The Sun, and the Massachusetts Review. She has received fellowships from the Iowa and New Hampshire state arts councils for poetry and the Astraea Foundation for fiction, and has been granted residencies at Blue Mountain Center and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. A graduate of Colby College and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she lives in Hancock, New Hampshire, and works as alumni magazine editor at Keene State College.