Mary's been so close to God
They’ve shared their blood. One body, as they say
But now she lives in exile. He has new obligations,
Hasn’t called in years. Still, when his heart beats,
She can confuse it with her own. But now she does the dishes
Listens to the radio on the way to Hy Vee
Surely there’s been some mistake, for here she is
loading the dishwasher and matching up the socks
He had the hard job. So why this backache for a spoon,
This endless missing stripe, the same ten lost solids?
A soldier on the radio was trained. He could smell fear
He learned a special vigilance. A creak or click or whir
Could cost the lives of all his friends. Coming home,
He could not shake the stealth of watching out for death.
He could not make himself behave.
“Whose life depends on washing dishes?
Who gets saved when you take out your trash?”
Have all learnt to use the potty
Rachael isn’t catching on.
Mary worries about Rachel
Who is fascinated with the dead
The flat silhouette of squirrel left on the road
The eviscerated bunny, guts shining beside the peonies
The bright-shelled beetle gone still behind the window screen
Rachel squats for a closer look at each fresh kill
Yesterday, a robin, not yet flown, maggots threatening
Cheerfully she recounts the list of those demised
For any passing stranger.
Mary wonders how all this will go down
When the men start writing gospels
The golden haired girl, stiff-armed on her potty,
Contemplates a spider web
Mary missed at Hanukah,
when last she cleaned.
“Mamma, look,” Rachel calls, pointing.
Mary cringes. Another corpse.
Daddy long legs, a pale lump
Delicate pumping legs gone still
“What?” Mary sighs, but what does she expect?
“See?” the child says, all eyes and certainty
“That bug’s life went right out of his body.”
Suzanne Kehm was awarded the 2012 Distinguished Artist in Literature by the Nebraska Arts Council. Her work has appeared recently in The Battered Suitcase and The Platte Valley Review. contact