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The Week Before She Died

ISSUE:  Fall 2016

I dream us young, again,
mother and daughter back
on 69th Street inside
our old brownstone—across
from the church, patch of lawn— 

a house neglected, wrecked,
as if the family
had been forced at gunpoint
to move away. In corners
dirt stacked like miniscule

anthills; along the edges
of room—crumpled clothes, bodiless;
littered across the floor
dry-cleaning bags, vestiges
of what they once protected.

A Turkish scarf, embroidered
with sequins, glitter, beads,
tantalizes. My mother
holds it close, says, “You should 
wear it.” The doorbell rings.

At the top of the stairs
he waits for us to answer.
My mother’s ballet partner, 
Russian, stows something covert
behind his almond eyes. With three

regal strides he commands
our gaze, pronounces the red
brocade robe his, lofts high 
the scarf, the sash he flung
in Giselle, circling the empty 

living room. With mischief he bows
low before my mother. Her love
for him, a mountain. The doorbell 
chimes. A blond, blue-eyed dancer,
in epaulets, arrives.

She straightens shoulders, turns,
walks away. Rudy asks 
Erik, “Did you ever tell her 
about us?” No response. The secrets 
men keep, my mother knows. 



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Jo Ann Mullen-Regner's picture
Jo Ann Mullen-Regner · 7 years ago

Congratulations Elise.  We know your mother would be proud.


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