★ ★ ★ ★
You sink your ear into dad’s chest,
Tears salt his shirt. As he smooths
Your hair, he tells you over again,
You did nothing wrong. You listen
To the crumbled husks of his words
Fall through the hollow of his chest;
His breathing washes an unseen shore.
You cannot hold him hard or long
Enough. When you lift your head,
It is as if from sleep. Your teeth crash
The shell of a Dilly Bar. You tumble
The cold in your mouth. After all,
Avery, you are Queen of the Elves,
And this day is a long ways from over.
Is not a table upon which supper’s served:
Tight-grained, lacquered oak,
The flourish of knots, the tenderness of light
Ensnarled in their hearts. Is not a tablecloth
With which my mother, with vigorous grace,
Could cause to breach a stagnant air,
Sending lazy, sunlit dust amok
Among the chandelier, and flutter
Its full proportions landing a languid descent
Square upon the table. Is no picnic
Or some chance to gather round
A story-swapping fire: the banished night
Asleep at our backs; lengthening silences,
And last flat sips of an over-nursed beer;
One last crack ringing, a sudden shift of wood,
Sparks tossed skyward towards the cold moon.
Is more like the idea of breath drawn from countless memories,
Held in common trust—waiting to be ransacked:
Its lines dragged back into the world to witness
And bear the moment, as a dead fish
Floats into the arms of an ordinary boy who has waded out
Past the reeds into a chest-high chill of moving water;
His mother’s voice, a stiff breeze across his ears,
Calls him home to the recurring dream of supper.
It is 1959 in this photograph, two years
Before Mother’s death. Behind the drapes,
Darkness peers in at the Christmas gala.
Tom, Carol, and Bob reveal their teeth
For the camera. The Christmas tree bears
The burden of ornaments. Mom and Dad
Are seen at a happy moment, tending the fire.
It is the old living room, the old house,
And In the corners the paper Is curling in
upon itself. Outside snow bangs on the window.
Glenn Pearl lives in The Land of 10,000 Lakes with his wife and best friend, Kathleen Pearl. His poetry has recently appeared in Street Light Press as well as Better Than Starbucks.
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