Elly Bookman: "Las Vegas, 1981"



My father breaks up a stabbing
at the gas station, my mother
waits for him at the apartment, feels the loss
of him hovering, possible. But they’ll be married more
than thirty years more, and he’ll keep
reaching heedless into the space between strangers where
ill wills bleed out, she’ll keep tolerating
his breakneck goodness. Always their bravery
will gleam like sunlight on a square mile of ice.

I could let this year settle inside me,
I could feel as if I’m there, beside my mother
as my father comes home, covered
in another’s blood. I could understand the emptiness
she feels when she searches his warm chest
for knife wounds and finds none
will be filled soon enough with her willingness
to treasure something tenuous. And if I wanted,
I could be just as reckless.

But I’m going to be less than they were.
I’m going to hold on to everything.


Elly Bookman's work has appeared in American Poetry Review, The Café Review, and Off the Coast.