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Time Off

ISSUE:  Winter 1993
Tillie, I’m writing about you, not knowing
if you’re there, if it’s there,
the heaven where there’s no wonder or worry,
only the glory of having time off.

How could they name you after a nun—
Matilda Cyrilla—and mean it?
In the end, you’d come out only as far
as the top of the stairs,
where you couldn’t see who was below,
and bellow any name at all,
too many faces to fathom,
too many nieces to name,
so before you begin to guess
it’s Beth, not Joan,
who sees you even now taking the stairs
from the cold cellar in your side yard.
The slanted door lies open on its back.
You’ve gotten ajar of peaches,
a fold of skirt and peaches in one hand,
damp dirt wall againt the other
while you steady yourself,
counting the steps as you ascend.


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