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The Year of Not Believing


ISSUE:  Summer 2012

My mother is six and does not know
what I have just read in the paper.
Kneeling in the backyard dirt,
she makes a fort for her doll Clara.
Her father’s away on business so much
lately she’s taken to spending early
evenings here, digging a world on her own.
Right now she’s humming lullabies
so sweet I can hear them eight decades later
in my chair, in my office, at this college
where each day I read The Washington Post,
where today’s front-page story is about
her childhood neighborhood, a chemical
testing ground during World War One.
I call the Army Corps of Engineers because
that is what the paper said I could do.
Because that is all I can think of to do.
When I cite the slope of her backyard, say
her hematologist had never seen this leukemia,
not even in Nagasaki, not even in the worst of it,
I get hung up on. She died so suddenly
all I can picture is the oxygen mask fogging
because she was humming then, too.
She was still humming the sweetest tune.

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