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Thirteen

Betsy Struthers
From:   Driven. Black Moss Press, 2000.


If, after waking, we still do not wake, what then? You
stand, in a plain dress, near a window, waving. That is
how I awake some mornings and we are together, your
smile draws open the membranes of sleep.
— LETTER XIII, Robert Hilles *

It is the morning of his thirteenth birthday and he stands
at the very end of the dock, stretching. Before diving in.
The lake spreads out before him, its little waves clap
on the rocks along the shore, a loon serenades,
gulls, an osprey, circle. Here is where you grew
through the summers of your mother's falling
deeper into the cool green sanctuary of glass, gin
a drink you can't stomach even now, and your father
always cutting grass, always finding chores for you to do
. If, after waking, we still do not wake, what then? You

turn over, turn away from the picture window, our
son framed, his arms raised above his head. Posed.
Poised. He turns towards the cottage as if he can
see us. Our naked bodies thinly sheeted. The blue
space between. Your foot against my shin. This is
your parents' bed and you can't forget it, the hiss
of your father's voice in the night as you lay sleepless
on the other side of the plywood wall. How you wish you
could hear your mother laughing. She blows you a kiss,
stands, in a plain dress, near a window, waving. That is

what you want to remember. Long to remember. And I
with my own baggage stuffed under the mattress, Mom's
migraines, her tears, and Dad out the cabin door before
dawn. Gone fishing. My sister tiptoeing, finger to her lips.
Going out or coming in. The same need for secrets she
forced me to share. Still forces. Still. The door
opens, the cat jumps up on us, purring. You roll
over, your sigh an echo of my own. I could not
imagine, then, luck greater than a single room nor
how I awake some mornings and we are together, your

hand on my thigh. We are cocooned in cotton, bound
limb to limb. Light ripples through the pane, glows red
on lids squeezed tight to keep our ghosts at bay. The
living ones, the dead. You groan, swamped by
dreams. Sssh. Steady. Our son is out there on
the edge, on his own, perched above the deep
of memories that will drown or buoy him up.
What sinks. What surfaces. What stays afloat:
a matter of suspension. Breathe. Leap. His
smile draws open the membranes of sleep.

_______
* from Robert Hilles, "Letter XIII," Finding the Lights On (Wolsak &: Wynn, 1991)


Betsy Struthers's works copyright © to the author.


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