When my brother asks if I heard
what happened to his old friend,
and says “terrible” and “sad,”
in the moments of my still
unknowing I see him, Paul, as a boy
in a blue striped shirt sitting on our porch
talking and laughing, or playing
tag and hide ’n seek, and only later
did I learn that he was good in math
and realized he was wry
and was surprised
to hear he fell in love and married
and there was steady work and
parties. A certain happiness.
And then divorce,
a shock, and Paul came back
to where his father lived alone
on the street we all had fled,
and I thought of that gray house
as if his mother were still there
how she would drink most days
and tap on the back window
when we played, her dark hair
piled high on her head.
Their kitchen table was wood
with benches, like a booth
at Friendly’s, and there were times
his mother talked to us, her voice
breathy from Winstons, the smoke rising
like a halo that never stayed,
though Sundays she walked down
the center aisle of our church,
her black veil shrouding her face,
all the way to the front row
closest to the priest, where she knelt
with a stillness and contrition.
And Paul’s pale Irish father
used to blink and blink
when he said hi, as if everything
moved too quickly, and it did.
Marilyn Annucci’s poems have appeared in a variety of journals, including Antiphon, Prairie Schooner, and Indiana Review. She is the winner of the 2018 Press 53 Poetry Award, and her book is The Arrows That Choose Us. She is also the author of two chapbooks: Waiting Room, winner of the 2012 Sunken Garden Poetry Award (Hill-Stead Museum, 2012), and Luck (Parallel Press, 2000). Annucci is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.