for P.K.


I wake and you are all day turning

fifty-five, that double-nickel year

I recently finished and would have passed

the baton to you—no hand stretched to grab,

grasp, grip, no fists pumping the air.


You left me on this dust, left your shadow

in the dresser for a while.

Your white gold ring we picked out together

nests in its dove-gray case,

as though the past could wear velvet.


No, it’s drinking tea or vodka

in an upstairs room, the walls as vivid blue

as the city chapel where we said I do.

The magistrate said Next.

That day sits behind the door I locked,


bolted, climbed the ladder down for decades.

Yes, since your last birthday

it’s been twenty-three springs

and the years are knocking at me—

wanting out, to crawl between my ribs again,


sit round and open like that band

in the drawer, and some days I try to find the key

to remember how to say Hello, Thank you,

some afternoons like today

when you would be fifty-five.


Joannie Stangeland is the author of In Both Hands and Into the Rumored Spring, from Ravenna Press, plus two chapbooks and a pamphlet. Stangeland’s poems have also appeared in Prairie Schooner, Off the Coast, Santa Fe Literary Review, and other journals.

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