The 2River View

Tova Gardner

The Love & Life of Miss Helen Fain

He reads to her, The Lover.
He wants to finish the book, read the whole book to her.
She can’t bear him reading to her like that.

The idea of Helen Fain,
came on the roads between St. Paul and Santa Fe.

Some small town in Iowa where our car broke down,
in so much flatness, there was no mechanic for miles,
just corn and then the houses of the town, huddled.
And it seemed no one was around. Or they were embarrassed,
for us, as we walked past their curtains.
I had on heels, my first.
They were small and clicked like triggers.

Everything was closed. There were names on the windows.
I thought they must be of the people who lived there.
R. W. Isaacs Dept. Store.

In each story there is a son.
He comes later and then he is also always
there. He is what she isn’t, and what she is.
He is thin in a photograph with friends. A drifter.
He is there because she dreamt him, because
he was born.

There is also the ending, how it starts and starts,
the whole thing. How the end is what we’ve always known,
and what we don’t.

My mother sleeps most of the way, or she is in front,
both black dogs on her lap.

We open the windows; open the doors when we stop.
We stop when we can’t drive any longer. Stay in motels
with windows that don’t shut, till I refuse. We get back
in the car and drive, we keep open the windows.

Santa Fe is low in dusk and colors.
We see paintings by O’Keefe.
Beside the flowers, an early work,
woman in blue, then folded between her legs
and from her mouth, red.

Tova Gardner has twice received Artist Grants from Vermont Studio Center. Poems of hers are published or forthcoming in The Adirondack Review, Blue Fifth Review, and Word Riot. Gardner is poetry editor of The Arava Review and Binge. contact