Sunday, April 2, 2017

WHITE STATIC

In 2nd grade I learned
Kennedy had been killed
in Texas. They waited
until the end of classes to tell us
so as not to spoil the school day.
Our parents gathered on
the neighborhood sidewalks
and smoked
into the evening. The red tip
of my father's cigarette danced
from conversation to conversation
in the evening gloom.
My mother watched from
our porch.

In seventh grade I learned
Martin had been killed
in Georgia and Bobby
in California. Our parents
voted republican. Had
cocktails. Complained at
backyard picnics about the war,
but only because we weren't
winning. My mother lost her
brother in the Battle of the Bulge
to a mortar round.
The flag from his coffin
was somewhere
in the back of her closets.

We stumbled into darkness
when my grandmother died,
sunrises came
slower. My mother
began to lose her footing.
She haunted herself.

Eventually, she asked
for a divorce,
but didn't follow through.
She found solace in
pharmacies around town.

In the summer before she died,
Mom listened to the television
on our porch each day
until it went to white static,
while staring out into the night
as if reading a very long, dull book.

When I was a freshman
in college, she killed herself
In the garage,
we sold that car.
Once the last shovelful
of dirt fell across her casket, we never
discussed it again, he and I,
the white static of her absence
was simply too loud for us to talk over.

Still I heard him strike a match,
it flared my father's face
into existence, swirled his
face in a long, blue exhale,
the red tip of his cigarette
so close to the edge
of her grave that
I grabbed his coat sleeve
to keep him from stepping
through that dark door,
because I knew she
wasn't waiting there,
across that threshold,
with forgiveness.

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