We thought we’d mastered it, of course,
those breezy gerunds, gust fronts from adverbial phrases,
minor winds from indirect objects
we passed around like pie after dinner.
But little darlings don’t we find ways
to fill the empty middle ground and tell our silly selves
what we like to hear and call it meaning,
which is, after all, what we’ve meant all along?
Our strategy’s been flawless.
What happens, happens. The space gets filled,
we call it good. We even look back and say
it seemed like a dream, but we were there all the time.
Doesn’t the family make you feel like a cry?
That too will pass, like so many things passed:
the rituals we made in the garage while parting,
the prayers we said, if only I had meant them.
And you remember that night, late November,
when I came to visit you.
Cable TV switched off
and I wanted to know how the war years were for you.
There we were, in the front room of the ranch house,
when that memory leaked, no, blurted out:
you held the letter in your first wife’s script reading pregnant, divorce,
and you teetered as if on a pier surrounded by swollen water.
Dale Cottingham is of mixed race, part Choctaw, part white. He is a Bread Loafer, won the 2019 New Millennium Award for Poetry and is a finalist in the 2021 Great Midwest Writing Contest.