With him, something left her, some hook
by which she gaffed the world
and held it to sense, to love, to logic
despite the awkward ground she’d learned
to claim. His best son, at his side
she cleared gutters of leaves, shoveled
the drive, changed the Chevy’s oil,
sat back after dinner
heavy in a chair. She learned
to be a gentleman. Hard at first for him
to see her tapping out his cigarettes,
wearing his old belt and shoes, to see
what she took as her own.
He came again to love her,
and to love even what rested silent
between them. And she knew her luck.
But when he died some of her swagger,
some of her bullheaded sureness, some hope
to be praised for the likeness she’d made
was shaken. I have no metaphors to lend this,
just witness to her decentering, just certainty
that only the loss of her mother
—the self she made herself against—
could be more difficult.
Most of the poems in Interpretive Work were published before content was widely available online.
I wanted to make some of them more accessible here.