She can’t see much out the window—
the lights in the jewelry store
are too bright, bright off the
expensive things and their glass cases—
but she can see her kids in the car,
the girl old enough to watch the boy
a few minutes. Inside, the man
behind the counter smiles, leans
forward with his hands
on the glass cases. He can tell
the mother’s not here to buy.
From her coat, from her face.
In her hand, a small clutch
of things: her wedding ring, now
pointless, two bracelets, a necklace
she loves, because her father
gave it to her before he drank up
their prosperity. (Shift-weary, she
remembers never having to work
as a girl. She remembers
the cushioned house of a
country doctor.) But there’s
little substance in memory;
she opens her hand for the man
behind the counter. She’ll do this
and then she can take the kids
to the market. The man
leans forward some more.
Things We Can Be Sure About
Certainly our mother
put plastic bags around our feet
before we stepped into boots.
We pointed our toes into the sharp corners,
as though the bags were carefully shaped for feet,
but our heels were loose in plastic space.
And then our feet stayed dry,
aside from our own sweat,
which left our skin dead and white.
The snow outside was high,
standing over us like grownups
on either side of a shoveled path.
Certainly we were wary of snowballs,
which required aim,
and raised the body’s fear of ice.
But the hallway out to the front door
was dark and taller than any grownup,
haunted even in full-on daytime.
Certainly we knew what meant what
as we stood in the vestibule on overinsulated feet,
between the snow pushed up against the porch
and the heat of the well-known house.
David Ebenbach has appeared here at 2River and elsewhere at The Beloit Poetry Journal,
Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Subtropics. Between Camelots (U. of Pittsburgh Press) won the
Drue Heinz Literature Prize. website •