Thursday, September 15, 2011

By Rebecca L. Morrison

She loved to write letters, and I wish
I'd written her more of them like she
always asked, brightly, slipping
a sheet of postage stamps across

the counter, maybe hoping I was
scared of her lonesomeness - widowed
lovelessness - and the time she fell
down the stairs to her basement.

For hours she survived with screams,
until Jesse, the Boy Scout next door,
heard her, and he got a certificate from
the Baltimore city police enumerating

his courage. Now I cringe at those hours
she spent shattered on concrete, those
hours I spent trying to crochet with
the hook she gave me, only to assume

she could just teach me again later.
And when the day came, prefaced by
the ninety-year slip from here to not
at all there, I stood weeping, dripping

with my mother's good emeralds and
diamonds, and the soggy grass clippings
and leaves that caked my black pumps,
and tried to read aloud her favorite poem --

"I am the only little black lamb -
The only one, that's what I am;
All of the rest have little white faces
I guess I'm a whole family tree of disgraces," --

until my father's grip on my shoulder
began to shake and sent me, scared
and slow like a letter tumbling
down the basement stairs.

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