The Parents, circa 1942

He never showed up when he said he would —
his absence a chime in a clock with no face.
Didn’t she spend her life waiting
by the Philco, by the black phone, for the letters
that came scrawled darling and love.
Inside my shadowy memory of —
always his eyes. Darkened. Staring outward
from the map of his world —
torn edges, sharp-peaked mountains and deep
descents — some lost country of confusion.
Her skin grew pale then pallid until she seemed spectral.
She fell quiet as a pond when wind has died down
and the water seems all reflection.
I don’t remember her smiling — a constant sadness.
What is lost?
She died young. He wasn’t there.
Some tavern in another state,
some glass of amber brandy kept him past the hour —
his spirit pinned to the odd calendar
of a salesman’s life.
From the beginning, she must have been fragile
as a glass bowl, delicate, etched with scrolls
and spirals that led nowhere.
A bowl that could hold her spirit even
as she lay dying. Holding and breaking —
in all at once — freeing her, I imagine,
into a land lovely as the tidal marsh
where one September, monarchs
weighed down each cluster of goldenrod
then lifted off — fragments of orange glass
glinting above the creek.

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