Look Close
by Gayle Reaves-King

Can you see it there, the pair laughing into the camera –– her red hair, his black,
in their prewar finery?
Went down to the end of Main to dance, get their picture taken.
Can you see how she would take the train to Galveston as an old woman
out on an adventure?
Didn’t we have fun, she’d say.

Mmm, mmm, that man must have looked like adventure,
but did he look like four babies?
Like four years of fear-filled waiting through war?
Miscarriage dealt with alone,
stories from his family about other girls before her.

In the long shadow of his legs, did she see the time stretching out,
the years on the farm, what she called “the time we almost starved,”
decades back in the city, him bringing paychecks
but no patience for the words she’d saved,
that life of jostling along like pecans in the same bowl,
shells hardening, meat drying out.

She’d gotten on a bus, 16-year-old by herself,
crossed the country to marry before he shipped out.
her not going, just going to.
him going away and who knew what after that,
came back so pain-filled and empty,
how could she even have recognized him or he her,
scar tissue in different places,
keeping the soft parts from fitting together.

When he died, she got on another bus,
another train, and saw her some world,
carried him with her,
like the smell of his cigarettes
in her hair,
his whisper in the train’s rumble,
Where do you think you’re going?

Illya's Honey Literary Journal

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