1. Late Night Letter
Jay, you know I never watched the news
—Afghanistan, Iraq, I couldn’t point either out--
so when you went, it’s like you were lost.
Or no, it was like I couldn’t follow.
No, I was lost.
I can’t write it all in one place
so I spread it out and know it less.
Do you think your mother thinks I’m dead?
Even if she’d give them to me,
any stars of yours would be dark--
dark stars are useless. I want to shine.
2. At the Laundry
Heavy load of sweatshirts and stuff rolls up;
eventually though, they tumble, the basket turning,
working and working just to dry the clothes.
And I watch the whole pointless cycle
start again. Then it stops, jeans soaked.
No more quarters. I never have enough.
They gave us grades all through school--
math, social studies, even gym.
I mean, there’s got to be a way to know,
now, as adults, if you’re doing it right.
Even how straight our letters were got grades.
3. Another Letter
We had extra-curricular priorities, you and I;
Elle’s almost twelve, proof of that.
We had to hide from your mother back then;
even now, she can’t seem to find me.
Reality star, Elle says. Or some days,
Engineer for NASA. So I’m taking classes
on loans I might not ever be able to pay back.
Now I get what a thesis is, and I’m learning
elementary algebra. And what I’m made of.
We do homework in sync, mother and daughter,
each in silence, becoming what we can’t yet know.
4. Cleaning Up and Homing In
The laundry’s in its basket still, days later;
heaped up junk mail layers the kitchen table.
Elle’s shoes make walking the hall a hazard.
Yelling does no good. I begin with the clothes
then work my way back to the table. Then sit.
Objects finding their place eases me, even if
order’s hard to achieve and doesn’t last long.
Kitchen ready, I put on the pasta water.
Home, the fact and feeling of it, is a softening
I can make for Elle. It has to happen every day.
Memories, mom used to say, won’t cook the sauce.
5. Starting Homework in the Gloaming
I tower my textbooks against the window.
Sunset’s long over, fireball gone, but
above the black bulk of the hills
yellow highlights the important edge.
Gloaming, my new vocab, refers to being in-between.
One word embodies many meanings. Twilight,
on one hand, is darkness shouldering into
day; on the other, light blooms on the stem of night--
betweenness means living the transition.
You can’t trust words. So I start with math.
Equations. Proofs. Let’s see what x is this time.
6. Last Late Night Letter
In the small quite hours, I wake, and,
magically, feel cozy in my trailer, in my life.
Elle snores, but gently, the sound a comfort.
Let me go, Jay. Let me live, and I’ll, I’ll, I will
let you die. It’s been eleven years,
eleven years, six months. Through my window
a star I think is Venus gleams like a jewel.
Night-time is becoming my friend again.
Daylight’s no longer drudgery. I whisper
Move on, move on, only partly to you.
Embraced by star-shine, I snuggle in to sleep.
by Edward Dougherty