It would have been nice had someone talked about it
when the world declared its second war.
For all the women, the headline might have read:
Truman will drop an atomic bomb so that more men
may drop in on doorsteps.
And they will drop in:
in the morning, in the evening, in the afternoon,
tomorrow and for decades—
to visit the grieving wives and mothers
who have words for God but no words for all the suicides
the exhaust pipes shimmied through windows,
nor the pills, scattered like bullets, on nightstands.
It will be the right thing,
the Nazis might have said, for men to stop by for a warm meal
made by the hands of a self-composing woman
who will take their coats and hats and hang them
properly in the closet,
before showing them where to go.
In the kitchen, she will get out the good china
and the good glasses
for a brandy, or a coffee, or a whiskey sour.
So that it’s not much unlike how it was before:
because sitting in a distant room,
in the good chair, is one more man—looking around,
waiting for his peas and carrots and slice of pork
chop—who won’t ever talk about it.
Another Cup of Water
It is an incredible fiction made by the feet of fathers
who walk unendedly into night’s open
mouth. From the sink to the bed and back to the sink,
for their daughters: they have agreed to another
cup of water.
The floorboards quiet and creak.
The tap rushes on and off.
Every sound is sacred—so girls, who cannot bear
to fall asleep,
can plot and scheme with the changing silhouettes of men.
The stars: they too are sacred—playful they are,
pretending to be peeved.
The stars: they make girls feel close to God.
Never, then, can there be a last one: because one day,
we will all be going to bed.
So daughters remind themselves to drink slow,
to drink into the morning,
to make the water last—and they do:
because a good father understands what his daughter
doesn’t know she means
when she says that, still, she is thirsty.
Before She Died
It’s grown more difficult to place her in my mind
……in her own house,
where she sits—with knowledge,
……or maybe not that
but thought itself,
……and how it gets away and just is,
and might, in fact, be more like inhabiting a mood
……or an act of becoming.
So then, the rocker,
……the one at the foot of her bed,
or maybe she is in the kitchen,
……at the table, where the air conditioner sticks out
from the window too near her head,
……or the lawn chair, yes—a few feet out from the garage,
the kind that is actually a chair and not low
……to the ground,
because she has just pruned the bushes
……and cleaned out the poison ivy,
but no—she is too old for that.
……So I’m thinking she is tucked into the couch,
exactly where the arm meets the back,
slippers strewn beside the stool,
……half-overturned so you can’t fully see the satin,
but you know it’s there,
……the ones, that, in Filene’s we’d find them,
……in maybe August or September
but for Christmas,
……and pick from the back the one in the best box.
And how she looks sitting,
……that I know:
the image, to describe it—it’s so severe, almost
……brutal—the first jut
of the knuckles,
……and then the roll of her fist,
like a track within the gear, pushed hard
……though it goes along its path,
and into the side of her face,
……how unforgiving the knuckles are,
right away and after a while, against the cheek bone,
……such a dull ache,
and how she keeps it there
……so aware of her gums in her mouth,
……and how it’s somewhat self-persuaded,
but also a little innate, so that a few days before it happens,
Karyl, You don’t know how hard my life has been—
……That, just that,
is what she means,
……and just that,
…………is saying something.
Susan L. Leary is a Lecturer in English Composition at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, FL, where she lives with her husband, Sean, and their sweet wheaten terrier, Ellie. Her most recent creative work appears or is forthcoming in Steel Toe Review, The Copperfield Review, Cold Creek Review, The Big Windows Review, Dying Dahlia Review, Lady Blue Literary Arts Journal, and After the Pause.