The above was a draft for the following work-in-progress:
My mother’s voice.
It wilted on my bed like a discarded cardigan.
It was awkward.
It was stale.
It lingered, as would remnants of a birthday party in nursing home cafeteria.
It was indifferent.
It was no more urgent or upset or excited than a mailman delivering a package to a home with no one there.
She may have been reminding me to schedule a dentist appointment, or telling me about a mishap at the dry-cleaner, or recalling the salinity of last night’s mashed potatoes.
Her voice held with the same assertion and pointedness as the blank stare of a child in a dentist waiting room.
It wasn’t concrete, it wasn’t engaging.
It came, did its job, and left.
No more whelming than a perspiring bartender lighting a cigarette
or a hotel maid folding the corners of a toilet paper roll
or a middle schooler doodling a little flower in algebra class.
No more noteworthy than the yawn of a cat
or the snap of a seatbelt
or the bing of a microwave
or the sigh of a dusk.
It was there,
and that was all.
That was my mother’s voice when she told me Trena’s cancer had returned.
For a while, I walked a dog named Art for a woman whose name I do not know. The woman had Alzheimers and was taken care of by a couple of Spanish women who would rotate shifts in her Fifth Avenue apartment. The old woman never spoke to me when I came in to pick up or drop off the dog. She usually just looked at me, with something like fright and reserved desperation. She never spoke. Until one day, she did.
The most memorable time was the quietest time.
I was on my way home on the J,
writing a poem in my black book,
and the boy next to me had a full beautiful sleeve
and began to sketch on a restaurant order pad.
We never spoke, we never looked,
and the woman across from us gave us those eyes
like driving slow past the first apartment you ever lived in
with someone you lost.