Drawing by Judith WolfeGlenn Cooper
Tempted, this afternoon, to take a walk
back to my old childhood home, a mile or so
from here. Wondered what it would be like
to see the old place, where I was dragged,
wide-eyed and innocent, twenty-five years ago .
when I arrive,
an old woman will be crouched in the front garden,
pulling weeds, or better yet - planting flowers
for the coming spring. She'll rise when she
sees me staring. Rise and smile. Ask
what the matter is. And I'll tell her, too.
Tell her everything. About what had gone on there
all those years ago, where a man and a
woman had lived with their five children and how
it had all gone to hell in a handbasket.
Maybe she'll invite me in, allow me to walk
ghostlike through the house, the years falling
away with every step. I'll pause and take
a good look at my old bedroom. And the kitchen,
too, where so much went on, little of it
good. Then out through the backdoor and into
the yard. The old mulberry tree. The dilapidated
tank-stand. Everything still in its place. How
could it not be? How could anything
from this place ever change or become something
else? This old woman, she doesn't know
the meaning of what surrounds her. She can only
look at me, look at me and wonder as I stand
in dumb silence, the echo of years rolling
through my ears, my infant roar a faraway memory.
A year had passed since she'd told him,
"You're becoming hard work," before
putting the phone down in his ear.
A year! He couldn't imagine it.
He lay on his back
with his hands behind his head
and considered her words.
"Hard work," she'd said.
He felt something rise up
inside of him. Something
akin to anger, but not.
He slowed his breathing,
brought himself back to this life.
365 days had taught him
how to do that much.
He rolled onto his side and
faced the bookcase. His eyes
scanned the spines of books,
books they'd shared, discussed.
What crap, he thought.
Atop the bookcase sat two shoeboxes
filled with letters, and next to that,
his diaries. God forbid
he should ever reach up
and go through this stuff!
Yet the idea is horribly attractive.
He feels the nausea rise in his stomach,
reaches for the letters, pulls back,
reaches out again. This is how he spends
the rest of the day - torn
between nursing a fading scar
and taking a clean, sharp razor-blade
and making a fresh incision
right along the old one.