"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

We Went Home After This

by Traci L. Gourdine

Our clothes flew from the roof of the car
old station wagon smelling of wood and leather
full up with us four kids
loose and rolling unhindered
like apples out of a bag

For years I saw slivers of this night and wondered
Did dark clothes fly off that car?
Did suitcases spring their jaws
cough our lives into the night?

I remember kneeling
in that backseat to view
my mother out in the dark
My beautiful mother
plucking up our tossed
belongings strewn like litter

there in the street. Her face changed
at each strobe of passing headlight
from the assured calm I knew
from the motherly impatience I could expect
I didn’t know it then,
 but I was watching a woman
in the midst of a sudden

She was no more than 32
Too young to have 4 quick kids
Too young to be so hurt
she thought to run
before he, my Dad, wandered
home to find us

No dinner
No fighting kids
No barking dog in need of a walk
No wife barricaded in the bathroom
pacing a three foot space
her only means of privacy
How she would emerge
brush passed him,
face set, tears

I would only know it later
at 32 myself, then again at 35, most definitely by 40
what my mother’s face in headlights meant
what the face of a woman looks like
when leaving, when running

She stood there in sweeps of car light
clothes in her arms like dirty laundry
and for a moment she looked back at us
our four faces watching
storing up memories
of her
failed escape

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