What is the barrier between my hand
resting here against my mouth
and your hand that rested, for a full minute,
maybe more, against our parents' bedroom doorknob,
middle school, newly Nashvillian,
alone in class & home alike?
Why, when I try to take that moment back,
am I standing a room away, straining to see
through the wrong end of a spyglass?
You think it's Mom beyond the door.
It feels like early evening when she readies
for work at the restaurant. You don't know
what she does those hours (is it minutes?)
after cooking the dinner she won't eat,
cleaning, gardening, exercising, and before work.
Does she shower? Nap? Apply makeup? Watch soaps?
Meditate? Drink? Read? Plot
some escape? The babysitter in Buffalo told you & Chris
Mom cries alone because you're so selfish.
Which you believed then. Now I understand better
the ways the world wants to bleed a woman out.
How a boy didn't shape the system
that spreads shards of glass on each path
beyond her porch—but shattered
a Riedel or two, an irreplaceable vase handmade
by her long-dead aunt.
Sometimes I can almost see what you wanted to ask Mom.
Some trivial image of mashed potatoes
reheated in a saucepan, skinless chicken breast
vacuum-clung to Pyrex. It's harder
to see the thing that keeps you from entering.
I'm standing farther back, in my frame
only doortrim smeared with oily fingerprints
and just to the right, the corner of a twice-
repainted hutch. Something is sucking
the sound out of my head, and I can't be sure
if what holds you at attention is your brother behind,
or aversion to confirm what you hear ahead.
If it's anything—
anything at all.
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