Rough and Rougher Drafts

September 1985
           after Sharon Olds’ “I Go Back to May 1937”

Today it is one hundred and eight degrees.
The trees are dying,
pine needles shriveled like locusts.
Pavement glistens with sweaty
runoff, gray dry muck from the city tracked
on car tires and soggy bicycle wheels.
In the belltower the sun-
rotted rope hangs limp.
Stained-glass saints blaze in
glory of their martyrdom.
You are going to be married today.
You are going to begin something today.
Mom, you are so thin:
swallowed in crepe, elegant
beads wrapped around your white neck.
Later the ring will be
resized but now it spins
loose on your finger.
The man beside you, my father—
virginal, you waited for him seven
years in a Chicago skyscraper using
your beautiful fingers to note
the legal complexities of acquisitions
mergers, other men
whispering to you from
the voice recorder. Dictation,
transcription. Every argument
answered in due course
of law. Was it too long to wait?
There is gray in your golden
hair now. Lines at your lips, your eyes.
Or was it not enough time to know
what twenty, thirty more would look like?
This day is much too hot.
Your dress is bleeding lace.
I want to know about time, Mom.
I want to know what it feels like
to step off the curb
and have the gummy asphalt
sink beneath your feet.


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