By | 1 February 2018

So we thought through the getting-

worse time of blackbirds & the voices
of our parents. The uncovered,
unadorned kitchen table shivered

more gently; the trains, it seemed,

had slowed. Father stopped brushing

the mud from his shoes when he left

in the morning, moving forth
into the nowhere-gray. Most nights

he returned with a newspaper
& a beard. Sometimes he didn’t return

at all & we didn’t ask why. Mother
clutched her rosary beads & filled

our bowls halfway with soup, insisting

always we scrub our skin well

but the powdery soap burned, dismayed

us. I concealed peanuts & raisins
in the spine of my geometry book,

hungry before lunchtime.
Sundays were the worst, homilies

on patience & frugality, how they suffered

in the desert with nothing inside them

but words. Communion meant
dark comedy: not enough bread,

not enough wine. Father despised

the priest when he drank up
what we had not. In April 1933
I tore the backyard rose bush up

& planted apple seeds there, dreaming

of pie with cinnamon & milk. In May
impatient—I ate the fledgling sprouts

myself, chewing them slowly. How bitter,

how it was not quite to be a man.

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