I sat with her at lunch.
I asked the right questions.
She said she didn’t love my father
until after I was born.
She weighed 106 soaking wet,
still had her figure at age 43.
What is love?
She wouldn’t tell me.
Have to figure it out by accident.
Hold the ball until you can’t stand it any more.
Take a bus and say no thank you, anyway.
Buy a cowboy hat and dream.
Or visit a pawn shop somewhere in Oklahoma
for wedding bands and talk about Elvis.
And let it make sense to you.
Let it make sense to you.
And she told me she still thought
about could-have-beens: that man
in the photo she carried in the back
of her wallet until she gave it to me
a day before her coma, four
days before she died. No one
else will understand this part of me.
He glowed when he walked
into Uncle Pete’s house on Oliver Street.
She was in love but moved away for summer.
He showed up on an Indian motorcycle
at the corner by Beulah Drug
the night of my parents’ first date.
She told him to leave—
something about propriety.
He got a room at the Crystal Hotel.
Aunt Gladys gave him maids’ rates.
In the morning
my mother went to his room
but he was gone.
She lay on the bed trying to smell him
for more than two hours.
Uncle Pete died in l969.
I tried to blow the candles out
at the funeral in the church.
Perhaps it was a party for a child.
The sight of that man made my mother
run out of the room.
She said she couldn’t breathe,
didn’t want a businessman to know
she’d settled for a dumb farmer.
My father wasn’t stupid.
He must have known she was ashamed.
He made the man laugh and
they talked about the war.
I wore a blue dress and pounded on the door.
She stayed in the bathroom where
there was a scale that told her
fortune for a quarter.