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ISSUE:  Autumn 1981
Who will measure the progress
of pine trees against children
and climb the back hill for remnants,
firewood and rounds of fired shot;
who will warn the slow parade of pheasants
when they arrive through the fog;
who will wander through the rooms
calling younger voices back,
pausing at the sill
to answer the unpolished window.

The house is a tin box
drumming out its losses—
the unsprung back screen,
the frozen front door.
No one notices the square of carpet
unmuffled by the upright piano,
no one hears arguments
repeated down the hall

or hears the weightless step
of children dancing a circle of songs,
and knows at once the anger,
heels shaking the stairs,
the gradual rattle of hangers,
the wordless meals, the rasped prayers.
And no one knows the insistent glow
of candles lit for the dead
reflecting in the breadbox,
the refrigerator, stuck with pictures,
droning into sleepless mornings.

Downstairs, crickets sing through panels
and spiders skate over tile.
No one disturbs them.
The house calls out,
creaking at the railings, stuttering
its plumbing, but no one calls back—
neither your son, lodged in the city,
nor any of your daughters
from their distant towns,
not your husband, adjusting his posture,
nor you with your backward gazing.

Fold the nightstand photographs.
Gather the children from the chifforobe,
press them in newsprint
and turn the trunk key.
Unframe your paper-white portrait.
Come away, it’s quiet
and it’s time to leave.


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