Sunday, May 21, 2017


She said she had seen me in church
clear as day, dressed in my best suit,
and she was sure it was a sign
I would be coming back soon,
sitting next to her in the pew again.
So I said, “No, mom, that vision
is more about you than me,” and she,
after a quiet minute picking at her sleeve,
dispassionately, like this was a blind date
gone wrong, “Then I guess we have
nothing more to talk about.”

So there it is.  That’s the line
you always wonder about, the one
that begins to fray as soon as the DNA
has played itself out, the real crack
that ends up breaking her back. 
But what had we ever had to talk about,
really?  She didn’t get Narnia or Macbeth
or divorce, and I was mystified by Mormons
and Reader’s Digest and the little smile on her face
all the way through Cops.

For another ten years I would praise
her Christmas hams and cherry tortes
and she would try to set me up
with the nice receptionist at her doctor’s office,
and though we didn’t say it—would never speak
of it again—both of us knew
something had broken.  It would show up
in her eyes, occasionally, then more and more
until some Sunday visit, sitting next to her
by the dayroom window, it becomes clear that look
will never leave—the one that says you could be,
you are, any stranger off any street—and that now,
young man, one warm cup of Postum
and the TV Guide will entirely suffice.

(from Pebble Lake Review, 2006)

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