Thursday, April 26, 2007

Asking for Directions

A Twenty-Minute Writing Exercise from The Poet's Companion, Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux, eds. (p. 246-7)

I Can't Remember

I can't remember if the last time I saw you was
that Christmas in San Carlos, when Lizzie pitched
a tantrum on the dining room rug (Liz and Mike
were in Tahoe for the week and we were squatting
in their house); you said, shaking your silver head
over the Caesar salad, to Aunt Wendy, covering
your moving mouth with a spotted hand,
"In my day, we had the kids in bed by 7:00,
ate alone at 9:00," as if the absence of their living noise,
the triumphant crash, bang, and scream of them making
their unholy mark on the world were some sort of
half-recalled heaven--

that's not how I want to remember you,
not as a sudden old woman in her 90s,
frail, confused,
a grounded traveler guarding her remaining days
against the brush of death's
mind-numbing cloak.
Even then, when I could tell we'd lost
quite a bit of you already,
I loved you with an ache that went deeper
than your son's early death.

When I got the email about your diagnosis,
I sat at my desk, here at school, alone,
and stared into the glowing screen--
as if there, in the shifting light, I could see
the flit of your young body on a Rhode Island beach,
the reach of your legs, pedaling on nothing,
to the sky.

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