Beth Paulson

Last Time


My father has his arm around Jane,

his second wife,

on the gray front porch.

They are smiling, dressed

for summer in white short sleeves.

I am the oldest daughter

who is holding the camera

in front of their beach house,

my young son beside me

not in the picture.


All afternoon we sit in chairs

under a maple tree's shade.

They smoke their cigarettes

and I try to keep the talk going

of this summer's drought,

a niece's marriage, their new internist,

Andrew in my sight down

where the blue sound meets sand.


At night over plates of shrimp,

my father at the table's head

smiles often, nursing his one drink,

telling jokes and old stories.

His hair's gone all white,

his face still smooth and ruddy.

I think it is so much easier

for him to love my son.


Later when we go to bed

Dad leaves an upstairs window open

and a small light turned on

so if we wake up in the night

we'll remember we're at his house

on the Connecticut shore.

Beth Paulson's poems have appeared nationally in over a hundred journals and anthologies and she has received three Pushcart Prize nominations. Beth lives on Colorado's Western Slope where she teaches writing workshops and co-directs the Open Bard Poetry Series.  Her fourth book, Canyon Notes, was published in 2012 by Mt. Sneffels Press. Visit her at



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