GRIEVANCES By Joan Cusack Handler A swelling constant in my throat now & a burning in my chest as I make note of each new grievance— it seems we’re helpless. He must criticize; I must react. But he says I provoke him. He wouldn’t be so critical if I would be more rational . I need screens, he says, distance. Think, he admonishes. Emote less. To him, I’m an E X P L O S I O N: that torrent of L E A V E S overtaking him in today’s November W I N D. I’m s c a t t er. I ex a g g e r ate. I’m rage, fire & t e m pest. I’m our bedroom: a c h a o s of Christmas wrap f r en z I e d outfits dang - ling from doors, our bed smotheredin books&papers catalogues last month’sphonebills. I’m t o o m u c h He likes boundaries. dough r I s I n g unattended in the oven, dinner for twenty to celebrate each holiday; I’m last minute wine, toilet paper, makeup& dessert, visits to the bank, dentist & colorist. I'm always cleaning your mess/he says I'm repetitious-turning life inside then out; I’m needy, dependent & insecure. I’m endless crises, tirades, dropped bladder & hysterectomy . . . . I spend my life, he complains, taking care of you. I know I love you, but I don’t know if I can live with you. He’s tired. He needs quiet. Rest. I’m intense, too analytical: “How do you feel? What does that mean? I’m at war with my body. Maybe I’ll go back into therapy.” You’re moody, he says, depressed. He wants l i ght, airy: he wants healthy: an Athlete, maybe a Bimbo, nothing t o o intellectual. He wants to laugh, play tennis, a little piano get a suntan, make love with someone who isn’t keeping score. He wants entertainment: movies, vacations. He wants quiet. He wants peace. He wants to be bored.