What the Boyfriends Teach Us


By Jill McDonough

Susan’s boyfriend made a list, so at the store
he’d remember to buy more ice cubs.
The algorithm won’t let this happen anymore. 
It knows if you are sleeping; it knows if you are dumb.

It knows if you've been bad and want offers from busty
adulterers, hushed hotel suites in Montreal.  
When I text its the phone knows when to apostrophe.
The phone’s always right. I barely need to spell.  

The strangers who wrote the algorithm help
me every day: invisible guardian angels who turn
“fuck” to “duck,” try to help me be some better self.
I learned it’s from its when I was nineteen, burned

when a college boyfriend corrected my flirty,
wrong emails. Once I got a note in junior high,
an apology, tucked in yellow and purple grocery
store mums. Polo cologne-scented page, torn right

out of a spiral notebook, college ruled: Dear Jill,
it read, in childish cursive: I’ve been such a fuel


Three-time Pushcart prize winner Jill McDonough directs Boston’s MFA program and 24PearlStreet, the Fine Arts Work Center online. Her books include Habeas Corpus and Where You Live; Alice James will publish Reaper (forthcoming 2017).

Photo credit: Josey Packard

Photo credit: Josey Packard