RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – November 28

November 30, 2017

Poem of the Week 11/28/17

Della Rowland

Thanksgiving Days

I know two brothers, borne by unworthy parents,
thrown back and forth between them, till,
teenagers now,
they wear the ill-fitting clothing of neglect that cannot cover certain bruises.

So tossed they were, they came to talk to each other in some harsh language
only they understand, jabs of shorthand, loud and jagged,
like their mother’s tongue.
They trust each other only. I see it shining in their eyes, as they spar, laughing.
They reply to others with their father’s clipped cadence,
and his tone, how he keeps it in the lower registers.
They repeat his omissions, with none of his ease or the subtle lilt
that lying brings to his inflections.

They’re transported North for holiday rituals and summer vacations
with their father’s relatives,
shown structured households where they don’t fit,
but roam feral, grunting, seeking warmth.

And so it was on Thanksgiving,
when everyone was full of turkey and ready for three kinds of pie,
that their mother called the older one
to tell him the toddler twins she had by her drug dealer
had been taken away because she beat up her boyfriend, again.
Don’t tell your brother. He’s already pissed at me.

When he hangs up, he is suddenly empty.
His aunt and grandfather sit with him until he pours out her news.
Can I stay here?
His aunt nods. I see her mouth tight against her brother and his wife.

He asked the same of me years ago, when he was my pup,
when we took long walks to find bugs on leaves or curbs,
when we read picture books by heart,
when he fell asleep between me and the back of the couch,
when he told me his dreams in the morning,
when we made momentous decisions in the grocery as to
which cheese made better jum jims to feed dragons.

He didn’t stay with me. He needed to go back home for some reason.
We’d had him two weeks already. He needed to go home.
He needed to go home.

I watched his eyes from the porch while he was buckled into the car.
I’m his father’s stepmother. The children call me by my first name.
His parents were expecting him. He needed to go home. I didn’t say yes.
He never asked me again. Perhaps he doesn’t remember. Still,

even with my well of guilt, my litany against his mother lengthens.
I know she’ll call him now whenever she falls down.
She’ll call that boy,
that boy with his sketch of a moustache,
his awning of curly hair over dark eyes that dare you to tell the truth
he can’t yet take in.

She’ll call him, that boy.
Not her ex-husband with twenty grand in back child support and a third baby boy.
Not her younger boyfriend she fistfights with.
Not her sister she stole from.
Not the younger son she stole from, not that wised-up son.
Not her addict-mother, or who-knows-where father.
Not her adoptive parents who are tired and have run out of cars.
Not me. Not some grandmother or aunt or cousin related by some convoluted adoption make-up-your-own-family board game.

Not that they all don’t owe her. Hell, everyone in this life owes her.
She has a right to her own deprivation, a story that’s hers that she can’t read.
Sins of the fathers, sins of the mothers
but no right to call this son, this boy, this one,

on holidays, in the middle of a school night, during birthday cake, from jail,
Valentine’s Day, double date with his brother, wedding night, anytime.

And I have no right to stop her.

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