I’ve known her since I was a kid;

she visited me from the beginning.

We sat under the table and she told me

stories:  my mother was going to die,

the blister on my heel would kill me

as dead as Calvin Coolidge’s son.

She told me thunder was demons

hammering nails into my ears,

that cave bears lived in the cellar,

tigers behind every clump of grass.



Once when I was ten

and learned at last that parents

sometimes lie,

she ran away with me

to the field behind our house.

We sat in the grass

under a thorn tree.

There’s no one

we can depend on, she whispered.

Now we have to handle everything.



She liked the English teacher

we had when we were seventeen.

We loved Salinger, Dylan Thomas, Chaucer,

Hayakawa and Shaw.  We smoked filtered cigarettes

and tore the bottom hems from our jeans.

We walked the railroad tracks all around town.

We taught ourself to play guitar.

We wrote obscure poetry and decided

we were an existentialist

even though we weren’t quite sure

what that meant.



Somehow, I persisted,

and even though I was brave

enough to marry, still she hung around,

telling her tales:

Your husband will crash that jet he flies.

Your baby will get sick.

Sometimes she convinced me

that I wouldn’t live to see

my baby grow up. She was always

too thin, twiddled her hair, drummed

fingers, wrung her hands, picked

at scabs, picked at food.  A hard

V was furrowed in between her eyes.

She stayed up late watching Hitchcock

films or reading trashy books about conspiracies.



She’s wired hard into the almond

deep inside my brain.

Over the years, I’ve taught her to behave.

Shut up, I say when she starts in

on her morbid list.  I’ve made it this far.

I’ve been married to that man for forty years.

The baby has a wife and owns a house.

Mom and Dad are dead, and I’m still here.

She crawls back under the table then,

grumbling something about getting deaf.

I know she’ll never leave.


November, 2010

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