by Gailmarie Pahmeier
Nearly 35 years from today
she’ll be asleep on a Sunday morning,
her second husband spooned against her,
the two cats cornered at the bottom
of the bed. She’ll rise to the ring
of the telephone, shuffle through the hall
to the kitchen, leave the man, a carpenter
she’s loved for years, loved from the day she knew
he could build her this house, its open spaces
and secrets (her name carved into a truss,
their own hand prints pushed into stucco),
she’ll leave this man to sleep in. When she picks
up the telephone, it’s her mother’s voice,
coming to her from a little brick house
in the hometown she left decades ago,
and she’ll hear that house in her mother’s breath,
see its tidy lawn and tomato plants,
the rose trellis and the chain link fence,
the blind poodle, the fireflies, mosquitoes.
Her mother will say–Oh, honey. It’s bad
news. Laura Thompson has shot herself
through the heart, has saved her face, she’s gone,
gone, she’s done such a sad and common thing.
This news will take its clear and careful time
to bring her down, but she will on that Sunday
morning go back to bed, back to the man
who loves her, his uncovered chest a mat
of black and grey, and she’ll think of the wolf
come to blow a house down, and then she’ll sleep
awhile, rise again, make coffee, break eggs.
But on this very day in 1969,
she and Laura Thompson ride a tandem
bike through neighborhoods they’ll never live in.
Both she and Laura have boyfriends,
thirteen year olds with substantial Greek
names and the town’s fullest promise. She and Laura
wear their heavy ID bracelets, talk of how
when they marry these boys they’ll have porch lights
and horses, barns and patios, gardens
with statues, welcome mats at both screen doors.
And on this day Laura laughs from the front
seat of the bike, turns her soon to be
heartbreakingly beautiful face, says
Look! Look at that one! The people
in that house could be happy forever
as she pedals them farther and faster
through tall grass, toward deep woods, and into stone.