Maggie Balistreri


Here's folly in wise clothing:
The phrase, "Opposites attract." For whom? the self-loathing?
I watched a man stare down his opposite wife from one end
Of a dining room table. And I watched him attend
To her words, on the verge of a pounce
The first moment he could pronounce
"Yes, but...," which of course, means "no," and
The insult of a "nice try" and a pat on the hand...
The very opposite hand that his own hand drew
To his heart, years before, as I, a witness, knew
To record for comparison's sake on this, their anniversary day.

Love's first bloom dazzles, and one is eager to make an exception,
Which involves a fair amount of self-deception
So you call an opposite type a complement instead of a clash
Which is what happened with the couple at whose anniversary bash
I sat and shredded a napkin as I watched the war unfold
Which one minute of reflection on either side might have foretold.
But with years of practice the roles are cast, and they play them to the hilt:
He, the Pedant, she, the Beauty-not bookish but well built.
And they drew aside the gaudy curtain on domestic decay.

It was innocent enough, at first, with the husband's teasing jest
About his wife's flitting from room to room in characteristic unrest.
She shot back with a little jab at his adherence to rigid routine.
Eccentricities lose their charm, and a writer's quarantine-
Recording our dainty notions in our dainty little hand-
Is not-so-secretly despised by our opposites who just can't stand
The idea of an interest that renders us so silent and still.
In return, some scorn slips through for our opposites, who seem to fill
Their days with futzing. So the Pedant and his Princess Bride
Faced off against each other and from teasing began to deride
Qualities in their mates that were opposite their own: I heard him say,

"It wouldn't hurt you to read a good book." She got him with, "Well,
For that matter, it wouldn't hurt you to write one." And now decorum fell
By the wayside, with the husband publicly unmanned.
"How can I, with her constant interruptions?" he gestured as he scanned
The faces of his grudging guests. And then she said it: "Oh come on. . . .
I mean, it's not like you're writing fucking Kubla Khan."
. . . We busied ourselves with coffee and cake
And calculated the earliest acceptable time to take
Our leave. A man elbowed his wife. A woman fingered her purse.
Your opposite is who you'd be, if you'd been better or worse.
Figuring out which it is occupies many a couple's day.

Opposites attract? No. They advance.
Like warring factions on a field, ill suited for romance.

Know yourself, then find your mate.
Your opposite is the one you come to hate.

Maggie Balistreri curates the Pink Pony West Reading Series on Friday nights at Cornelia Street Cafe in Manhattan, Her chapbook, a taxonomy of illness, is called The Evasion-English Dictionary. Her website is


Poetrybay seeks fine poetry, reviews, commentary and essays without restriction in form or content, and reserves first electronic copyright to all work published. All rights to published work revert to the author following publication. All Email submissions should be in body of email text.

To submit poems write to:

PO Box 114 
Northport NY 11768
or email us at

send comments to

first electronic copyright 2004 poetrybay. 
all rights revert to authors

website comments to