by Priscilla Atkins
In a life with one cat
in a quiet, high-ceilinged life
in paper, in books and roses
like the one-and-two friend, like the now
and sometimes, like your happiest apart.
In a then and Sundays, calm
communion, in a once-a-month church
a disappear book. In a window
a certain pen, certain fountain, a certain
frown, certain look.
Of an illness—tuberculosis
father and young daughter struck, six-thousand-
miles apart. Down hallways of sanatoriums
you are the baby daughter, of the fused knee
in the knotted-cry, of “your father died in Africa”
in the long ago, of the never knew, never touched.
Of the mother, of the mother
Of you, the baby daughter
on a long dark train; of the quarantine,
the doctor sentence; one year, maybe two.
Of the mother stiff, the mother lip
of “Don’t you dare” and “Don’t you cry.”
In the life with one cat
of the book and table. Of the water
glass, the ring and finger.
Of the late-night light, the one-two friend,
the ring and no partner.
Of a baby, of a long ago, Sunday trains crashing
under oceans; crushed chrysanthemums
of that first Good-bye.