Myrna Stone

In the Forty-Fourth Year of Your Death

What did you imagine, Mother, in those
last late afternoons in September when light
filled the unshuttered room where you dozed
or woke? What brief, fleet, bright-lit flight

of bird or leaf ablaze in those final hours
stirred in you a sharp and evanescent joy?
When twilight fell, what familiar specters
came to you unbidden in the dusky ploy

of memory? What remnants of your life
before did they carry, what rhetoric did they
repeat? And what of these words, Mother, rife
with care, that I write now as salve and stay,

this breathy tongue across the void we share
that sweetens even evening’s umbral air?

Forgiveness at a Distance

In the forty-fifth year of our mother’s death
my brother’s asserts its own sudden imminence.
In Florida, half stuporous, he rehashes his path,
thirty-something again, his life still limitless,

his wife and children still steadfast despite
his drunkenness and sexual excess. Once, he was
the sweet, irresolute center of our mother’s heart—
in whose defense she hazarded our father’s

raging scorn—and the early champion of mine
whose duty was to protect me. But how does one
lost child save another? Forgetful, and maligned
even yet, he regrets the past’s old summary

appraisals of his failures and profanations.
Mercy, I remind him, has no expiration.

Reparation at a Distance

What could I have said to deter my abuser
seven decades ago? There were no words then.
Nearly twenty, he embodied the perfect ruse—
our sitter next door, our available option—

with a slick, familial ease. What mother,
or father, or brother, could have ever imagined
the scene which, like a recurrent tic or stutter,
he played out first inside his fervid, ginned-

up mind? His sin became my sin, a canker
that corrupted my long Catholic girlhood. Who
shall I condemn, then, myself, or my assaulter,
who today gave himself up to the purview

of death, who, in its austere accounting,
is at last aware that I remember everything.

Myrna Stone’s most recent book is Luz Bones (Etruscan Press, 2017). Before that, she published In the Present Tense: Portraits of My Father (2014) and The Casanova Chronicles (2011), both of which were finalists for the Ohioana Book Award in Poetry. Her poems have most recently appeared in River Styx and Nimrod.



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