Sunday, September 15, 2013

15 September 2013

I Remember Leaving

The movers’ voices woke me.
I couldn’t have slept long
that early morning
after high school graduation —
we’d partied most of the night,
pizza & beer but no grass,
that was two years later, dusk falling,
a classmate’s Volvo in a dorm parking lot,
windows & doors closed, instant funk
of smoke & coughing. I remember leaving
my green-wallpapered bedroom
carrying things I’d need —
books, clothes, my car keys —
everything else was packed for the move
to Washington, DC. No one knew
I wasn’t going, maybe I didn’t know
until that morning, woken into noise
& fray. I was seventeen, college
was three months away. I remember
leaving my scarred desk, my single bed,
my emptied bookcase, the window
looking out to the street where Jesus
came to me one sunny afternoon,
the side window looking down
into the neighbor’s living room,
the oval braided rug where I first saw
four girls playing with a baby pig —
their mother latest amusement.
I remember failing to convince my mother
to let me make two slices of toast
in the packed-up kitchen, just toast,
I said, I’m hungry. I remember leaving
my two Siamese cats, how they would miss
sleeping under my covers, under
the brown-plaid blanket they’d chewed
to patchwork. I remember backing out
the driveway in my pale blue Pontiac,
the oil smell that clung to the upholstery,
careful to avoid the brick chimney
my brother once dinged with his Ford.
She didn’t see me go.
Six weeks later she showed up
wearing her best, a dropped-waist
black wool & pearls around her neck
at the house of the family whose toilets
I was cleaning — what did I think
I was doing being someone else’s
maid? My employer watched
from the front door. I wouldn’t
go with my mother, I needed to get back
to work. I remember her driving off,
the sun on the shiny hood of her Olds.
I remember leaving her
crippled & blind
in the faded upholstered chair,
knowing I mightn’t see her again,
my grandson kissing her goodbye
as he’d kissed her goodnight —
that fractured gargoyle face —
every evening before ascending 
the steep stairs to the back room,
the bed where I’d dreamed
so many summer nights away,
taking my grandson’s hand
& walking out of the house
she was born in, sold now,
to the rental car parked near
the open garage capped with a tower
my uncles — Tommy & Charlie —
built for a telescope's space
Now they’re all dead, 
all but her younger sister Mary,
so nearly gone.

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