My mother was dying and he came to comfort,
my father chased him away with floodlights
and an old .22. I searched the barn for him,
but found only clumps of matted hair
and a warm spot in the hay. I snuggled
down in it and rested deeper than I had for days.
They say he comes to the sound of wood on wood
or the smell of meat left out in an open cooler.
If I tried it, my heart might shatter like a terracotta pot
on a concrete patio. Like finding like sometimes
doesn’t end well. I was only sixteen,
everyone said I’d get over it.
My marriage crumbles, an old eraser
that looks fine until you try to use it.
My life is left in smudges and tears,
a standardized test I can’t pass.
I take the children to the Grange Hall
where the new playground is, the one
with rubber instead of asphalt. If they fall
they will bounce back up to the stars.
I tell myself this and let them play
while I do nothing. He comes out
of the copse at the trailhead between us
and my son doesn’t notice. He shoots
invisible ray guns at his sister who says,
“Mommy! Mommy! Monster! Monster!”
The boy looks and sees nothing. Little girls are born
liars, or maybe just see more. I stand
not knowing if I should protect them
or run to him. He sniffs the air one way
and then the next, returns to the woods
from the same way he came.
I leave out wine and two glasses
each night for a year, though I never
uncork the bottle. Hope makes a pattern
of one and a certainty of two, but who can afford
to waste even cheap red. He whistles in the night
asking me to come out, to join him in that world
of sticks and branches, of hiding from the light
of passing cars, but I’d rather he come in, sit
in the blue glow of an old television, making
dents in the sofa where his weight breaks the springs
as we watch In Search Of and laugh because he’s
been right here beside me all along.
Jennifer Schomburg Kanke
Jennifer Schomburg Kanke’s work has recently appeared in Gingerbread House, Prairie Schooner, and Nimrod. She previously served as the poetry editor for The Southeast Review and is currently the reviews editor for Pleiades. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, she lives in Tallahassee, FL where she is a visiting faculty member at Florida State University where she teaches creative writing and critical theory.
Artwork: James Baack, Skunk Ape