"In this extraordinary collection, I found a letter written on the day my son was conceived. His moment to choose earth, ours to choose heaven. In the travel between dialogues, between the lessons in these letters, maybe our past gets revealed as students floating in the other's eye." — Edwin Torres

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by Traci L. Gourdine

She's 70 now and is left with only the telephone
Finally her universe has come to be no bigger
than a circle of light. Her map of the world
her bed in Baltimore.

In the dim of periphery are two bedrooms
Living room kitchen bath and den. Who cares
that there's a man somewhere in another room
huge and slouched with his back to the door
His face blue illumination from a computer
He's there, isn't he? A man in the house
A low mumble of monosyllabic
requests and responses all bulk all soft
Flesh big hands that once could crush now
poke at a keyboard guides a pointer mouse.
She tells me his penis does not work anymore
and she still gets horny.

Then we're back to talking about Dad
again after how many years? I wonder
who will I come to recite in my daughter's ears
long past relevance and accurate remembrance.

She says,

On the night of our honeymoon he left me there
all alone by myself. He left and never came back
until the next morning, smelling of sex.
I didn't know it then but learned that smell
the way firemen's wives know smoke,
doctor's wives know ether, gardener's wives know dirt,
when their men come home. He said, I'm training you
not to be expecting me at a certain time, a certain place
in a certain way. I'm training you.

I imagine my mother 18? 19? A virgin two hours
into her marriage, smoothing her skirt
to guard its pleats, watching day drain from the sky
as she sits on the edge
of a spoiled bed. Her wedding night

She keeps telling me these stories
While in the same breath urges me
to go out
find myself a man

I'm in my own bed now. In a house
of two bedrooms, living room, bath, kitchen
but no den, no man. A daughter, 17 years
is in her bedroom with the door closed

I haven't begun to chip away
at the wall of images she's erected
in regards to me. What she believes is true
about her father and me.
She has her own story about us
about each of us separate.

I'm not 70 yet or itching inside
to unload my story
one anecdote at a time like sandbags
out of a hot air balloon
throwing them out at her
to catch, carry and own
while I slowly lift off finally
weightless, blameless,
relieved
a balloonist free to go.

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