Jackie Craven


Just for once, I want to witness
the going away. I want to catch the moment,
cup it in my hands, and see it blink and glow.
But in this dream, the Valley Line shrieks
from Grand Central hours before I arrive. Or
I reach Port Canaveral after the Boatswain’s
final call. I’m alone on the pier,
waving goodbye, waving come back,
waving until my watch slides from my wrist
and tumbles into the foaming wake. I’m so thirsty ––
thirsty the way my father must have been
in his hospice bed. I dab his mouth
with a moist sponge. I tell him, Here I am,
I’m right here. And so I am,
except I turn to read the clock. I miss
the instant of his leaving.
The Timex watch –– the one my mother
gave me in high school –– tsks from the floor
of the harbor: Can’t you be quicker?
My mother lies on her kitchen floor.
I pinch her nose, push air through her lips,
yet I don’t see her slip out to her garden ––
midnight dark and flecked with fireflies.
I can never move fast enough.
I’m on the New Jersey Turnpike, weaving past
construction cones, pushing 75, 80.
Exit numbers count down, radio towers
lose their grip, songs flutter from rap
to gospel. I’m in a chapel near a town
where I lived long ago. In my lap
is a rough black box –– high-impact
polypropylene, thumb-tab clasped
with a twist-tied bag inside. I hold on tight.
So tight that something snaps.
The dust that was my mother
plumes into the stained glass light. Or
maybe it’s my father. Or my stepfather
or my husband, all my family and so many
friends. I carry them in my lungs,
under my fingernails, and on the soles
of my shoes. I track them up carpeted stairs
to a room still painted the green shade of blue
I loved as a child. I want to never die.
I throw back the sheets only to find myself
already there, crowding the narrow bed.
If I guard the door, maybe I won’t get away.