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.

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