Cathy Essinger

I went away for awhile, she says,
and the stillness in her voice silences

the little café, and for just a moment
we all go with her. We drift away

from coffee, and notebooks, and iphones
to wherever away is—that small space

that we promise ourselves,
that precious thing from childhood

within reach once again. It is the step
you take backwards before opening

a door, the calm just before sleep,
a moment to remember whoever

you truly are. And then in the clink
of a glass it is gone, and someone

is handing you a check, and you are
saying thank you, and finding change,

and you are back in the world . . . .

But, deep in memory, there is a charm,
a talisman that knows you are never

really gone, that you are here and away
all at the same time.  And for a moment

you are that child again clutching
your dolls in a photo less impressive

than a mother’s desire to take it. 
Sunburned children, cheeks smudged

with summer sweets, hair straggling
across faces. In that moment

you remember that you were loved,
loved enough for a mother to take

a picture on an unremarkable summer
day when there didn’t seem to be

an end to anything, much less to love.

for Becky

Sometimes the answer forms around you
before you are aware of the question,

the way petals contract in a cool room,
or August nudges into September,

leaves looking a bit tired and out of sorts,
and then suddenly it is autumn, the time

for decision making gone, and you set off
on a new path, knowing it is inevitable,

that the decision never included a choice,
you only pretended you had some control

over the spinning of the planet, or the way
sunlight slants across the floor in October,

reminiscent of summer mornings so full
of desire.  Light christens the geraniums

you rescued from the cold, brought inside,
as if that might be a substitute for summer,

for the shortening days, the freeze that is coming,
if not tonight, then very soon. You will cut back

the zinnias and gather a few seeds to tuck away,
hoping to plant them in the spring, knowing

that you will forget where you saved them,
and they will slumber in a forgotten place

wanting to be zinnias, but stalled forever
in some empty space, neither here nor gone.

Cathryn Essinger is the author of three prize winning books of poetry—A Desk in the Elephant House, from Texas Tech University Press, My Dog Does Not Read Plato, and What I Know About Innocence, both from Main Street Rag. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Antioch Review, The Southern Review, and The Alaska Quarterly. They also have been nominated for Pushcarts and “Best of the Net,” featured on The Writer’s Almanac, and reprinted in American Life in Poetry.



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