This Shack I Lived in with My Mother, Herman
My mother is gone now,
and without her here the house
seems darker, emptier.
I found some photos in a drawer.
One is of the crumbling stone wall
that used to surround the backyard.
The wall is gone now.
I recall its look of constant struggle
to keep back the high tangled grass.
In the picture, the six of us sit on the wall:
My mother and me, your mother, brothers, and you.
The picture is blurry, but I can make out
the wild grin on my mother’s face.
She is gesturing to me as though to grasp me.
Though I can’t make out her face, your mother
does not appear to be grinning wildly.
She seems serene. You are tucked
under her arm but not held back.
I see these pictures of you, but I do not remember
how to ask you questions. I cannot think anymore
of the kinds of things you would know.
I think of how long I have known you, Herman.
If there were any doubt, this picture is evidence
that I have known you since we were very small.
Do you remember? I find old letters from you
in the drawer. I think I will re-read them,
though I’m sure this will make me sad.
In the middle of the night, I hear the train’s lovely,
druggy croon. It floats through four miles of fog,
the damp air distorting it
or making it more clear,
or maybe somehow doing both.
In my murmuring half-sleep,
it sounds too personal,
as though confessing something deep
and forgotten for the whole city to hear.