In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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Darkness lowered as we drove
across town, back to your childhood
home. Your father at the counter banged his knife.
What do you see in him? he said to me of you.
The boy’s no good. Not good for anything.
I held your hand and said, He is good.
Your mother said dinner was ready.
She hoped it was a good brisket. She wasn’t sure.
A western resounded in the background.
Your father repeated
That boy’s no good no good. A joke not-joke.
The house smelled of meat. You washed
your hands. I wondered how you took it and
what we would speak of later regarding your father.
Then the phone was ringing. Aunt Justine
shouted through the answering machine,
over TV gunfire, I just want to make sure
y’all’s doing OK. I like the new ladyfriend.
I like how she came in smilin’ and huggin’ and smilin’!
I like our boy’s new ladyfriend!
When she’d finished and the machine had clicked off,
we held hands, bowed our heads, and your father
prayed loud but not long.
And you said, Amen, and that you quite liked the new
ladyfriend, too, and no one laughed but me.
I returned home from work and stood
alone in the darkest
room in the house in my blouse
and skirt, barefoot. I felt
the presence of a man
in the hallway. But I knew
no one was there.
I missed his light, his long
talking. I missed praying
with him (though he did not
pray). I missed his
teeth, his lope, the him
of him. I missed the shadow
he left in his leaving.
In the dark kitchen
I saw his cup, left behind
on the counter.
I placed my finger into his tea,
still warm to the touch. I drank.
I drank it all.