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ISSUE:  Summer 2005

Suppose there were no fatted calf.
The timing is off: his father dead,
his mother too sick and old to celebrate.
She stretches a frail hand
toward her beloved, but can’t remember
who he is. His brother’s wife
is the one she knows, the one who keeps
the meticulous routine
of breakfast, (one egg, soft-boiled, spooned in
with alternating bites of applesauce,)
sponge bath, an entire shelf of medications.
He watches her wet a comb, pull it
across his mother’s pink scalp, and fasten
a child’s barrette around a few thin strands
of hair. He looks into his mother’s face,
lined with loss, and sees his own.
What good now the years
of running? All ports
lead back to this one:
land that is worked
by his brother, a house
where he’s not wanted, and all the postcards
that lit his father’s face with longing
now reduced to what they always were,
symbols of something else,
messages confirming
and nails nailing closed
the coffin of his brother’s envy.


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