by Dave Larson
I stopped at that place you always liked,
And bought that dish we both enjoyed.
Sat down at the table we bought at a yard sale,
And poured a scotch. You hated whiskey.
I spread the mail out on the table
Some junk, a bill, too many of those
These days. And, there is your handwriting
A letter from you, from California,
Where you live now.
I choke a little. I feel that
Hot burning on my neck, like
Whenever I’ve been hurt, whenever
I’ve been made for a fool.
I turn this letter over and look
At the back, the front, as if it is
Some bomb you’ve sent, something
That threatens me, that will explode
If I’m not careful.
“How are you?”
You hope I’m well, you hope
I’m eating correctly, taking my pills,
Getting out, seeing my friends, living life.
No, I eat whatever I can, not
Really that great diet you always
Made for me. You always liked
To cook healthy stuff.
I’m a bad cook, as you always knew.
“I hope you’re new job is going well”.
Well, it’s paying the bills, though
I’m bored as hell, this job
Is like all my others,
Far below what I am capable of.
“How is Buster, I hope he gets regular
Meals, and his pills, that dog needs
To be brushed, or his fur will mat up,
And he’ll chew his feet.”
He’s fine, asleep under the table.
Buster wanders the house
Looking and sniffing for something
Someone, a person he remembers
Only vaguely. A kind person who
Brushed him, spoke happy foolish things
To a dog, who always thought you
would always be there for him,
“The girl calls a lot, she’s pretty upset,
I try to tell her that she
Is loved, and always will be.
Have you seen her?”
Yes, and she’s angry, and blames
Us both. We left her at the school
In September, we moved her into the dorm
With other young women, the beloved
Daughters of solid families
From all over the Midwest.
We left her with new clothes
And stuffed animals, and the car
So that she could start
An adult life, so full of hope,
Such idealism. You left me
Two weeks later.
“We need to talk.”
About what? That we
Wore out our love, that
Your respect decayed into
Contempt for my foolish
That twenty years of being
Joined at the hip, of being
A single entity, our lives
Blended together like paint
On a canvas, a singular hue
Unlike any other
“I’m happy here, in Northern
California, amongst my friends
And family, though something
Isn’t quite right. Not what I
Thought it would be.”
Well, I’m not happy either
In Iowa, here in farm country
So different than what
You grew up with, so
Rural. So cold in winter.
These were my roots that
You never really embraced.
“How is your mother?”
She’s a year older, more worn
By care, disappointed that
Her son couldn’t sustain
His marriage. Why
Do you care?
When did you stop loving me?
Was it when my hair thinned out
And I developed a paunch
And we ran out of things
To say to each other?
Did my friends bore you
With their small town ways, always
The old stories about people and times
You never experienced? Yes,
We are just locals.
I find myself on the back porch
With your letter in my hand
In the dark, the dog beside me
He sniffs the air, hoping
To sense the smell of the returning
Of someone he knew once
And wants to see again.
The food is cold, the scotch
Forgotten. A breeze sends the corn
Stalks waving. How do I
Respond to this letter
That explodes my inner peace
That I’ve worked so hard