Be Brave

The same road that goes to 100 Oaks Mall
also goes to the doctor’s office — be brave, be brave.
One thing your mother says is that she’ll never lie to you,
say that you’re only going shopping when you’re really going
for your allergy shot (how often — weekly?), and as far as you know,
that’s true. She didn’t. Still, how are you supposed to be brave
when bravery does nothing to protect you, when no amount of
begging makes your mother turn the car around or decide
that today’s a better day for shopping, after all?



For some reason, someone in the produce department
at The Andersons General Store on Bent Tree Road
is talking about abortion, and for some other reason,
my mother (who is peeling corn and tossing the husks
into the provided plastic trash barrel) ventures to say
to this stranger that she agrees, that she, too, is pro-life
and against the killing of babies. I back up toward
the pyramid of honeydews, wanting to disappear
because I can’t make this moment disappear, this
reminder that, along with all the other things she is,
my mother is an Ohio suburban Republican, after all,
and anti-abortion. I couldn’t argue with them then,
this stranger and my mother, and I can’t argue now —
The Andersons is gone, my mother is gone, the corn
is gone, too, of course, and Bent Tree Road may as well be.


Quiet Quiet Loud Quiet

You can choose to block it out if you want,
with a syndicated rerun of M*A*S*H*,
but then you might miss something important
in the quiet quiet loud quiet of your parents in the kitchen,
your father telling your mother about his day at work,
your mother giving him advice, your father telling her —
what? (I never really caught that part, only that
often, he yelled, and sometimes she did, too),
and then it’s time for dinner, and no one has to
talk at all because the news is on —
the nuclear arms race, maybe, or Iran Contra,
and everyone is tense, but no one has said it,
that you’ll be moving again; if anyone knows yet,
at least no one has said it. Yet.



When Mount St. Helens erupted
in the spring of 1980, I made much of it,
telling my first-grade classmates in Minnesota
how close we’d lived to that mountain —
not true at all, but I needed something
to secure myself as something other than
the new kid, having gone through days and days
of crying over math worksheets, how many pennies
to buy a whistle, how many pink erasers for a quarter?
Anyway, the drama of a disaster was useful
in crafting my new persona at age 7,
and also, I dabbled in meanness, one time
telling a boy who asked me how to spell electricity
that it was E-L-L-E-E-T-T-T-R-I-C-I-T-T-Y,
causing (once he realized) a disastrous fury
of erasing on that cheap paper they gave us.
One thing I can’t remember is if it was him or me
who drew Mount St. Helens, a better-than-stick-figure
man falling off the top; probably there was lava, too.

12 (to be explained)


Life Is the Making of Ghosts

But what is there to forgive?
Life is the making of ghosts, perhaps,
for all of us, in one way or another.
If I hadn’t moved all those times,
someone else would have —
a best friend or a solid neighbor,
my world sliding down like a sandcastle,
even as I stayed in one place.
Houses move on around us, too,
only frozen in time if we have that
snapshot moment, from the car
pulling down the driveway,
watching the garage door close
one last time.



Because I’m still in love with you
on this harvest moon, but here I am
alone on the couch in my parents’ house
in Worthington Hills, lost forever


watching Neil Young on Saturday Night Live
while you’re out somewhere on this Saturday night,
this harvest moon, without me, and I know

as long as I live, there will be no ache
like this one — at least I hope not, anyway.

12 (to explain later)