I Remember Her Now

Published in Evening Street Review (Autumn 2017)

 

I would like to say
that I’ve thought of her often,
but that would be untrue.

In the beginning, after she stopped coming around,
I wondered about her.
Listened for her knock at the door.
Always after dark. Never the bell.
Her son hanging back, hunched into himself.

The first time, it was raining.
They were to be tossed from the motel that night.
The boy was hungry.
These were the facts of the matter.
How many doors, I wondered, before ours.

She stood firm,
long neck, tiny straight frame,
held my gaze with her gray eyes.
And from the first she was my wounded bird.
I imagined her bones light and hollow,
her will fierce, her search for food endless.

I packed a grocery bag,
drove them back along dark, shiny streets,
paid the night,
tiptoed back in as if I’d been with a lover.

Again and again in those fragile months,
living a life on the brink of destruction,
I would hope for her knock,
the flurry of filling bags
with what could be spared from the fridge,
scraping together cash for rent,
a nurse’s aide uniform,
school supplies.

My memory is of them in our living room.
We sit on the edges of chairs,
cups of tea on our knees.
But, the room seems longer,
the light from the kitchen further away.
There is the quieting of dishes, the sound of listening.

And from the distance of memory
I see what I could not then—
how I worried over her
while you, my love,
quietly bent to the task of not dying.
Not a word of reproach.

What must have you thought?
Or did you know then what I realize only now,
as I suddenly long for her knock at the door
after so many years?

A bird to mend, a bird to mend,
when wounds beyond healing,
loss beyond letting go
are upon me.