My friend wept on the job like he’d walked around
the rainy woods in his Boscov’s suit
so I leapt up from my desk and embraced him,
my overwhelming regret that he’d notice
I wanted to finish my soup
before the meeting like anybody
whose mother hadn’t just left
the world for good. I could no more forget
losing mine than 8 times 8 equals 64.
But it seemed I no longer knew
what 64 felt like, undeserving of her
in that moment, distant like a certified letter
had arrived from Bordeaux or Tucson
with news of my name in a stranger’s will.
My life was speeding again
and I unable to recognize
in my friend’s wide eyes its feckless splendor.
He still lived with his mother, said he kept
thinking she was at the store
or still at work. Instead of 13 equals
only 13 times 1 I thought of the age
I first bounded up the stoop alone,
misplaced my key like always and went to check
for hers, the other door, the flower pot
or under the mat, the deer in our yard a fact
which couldn’t even explain itself.
Then almost reluctantly it flung its silhouette
like an arrow through the trees
leaving me standing, leaving me everything,
all that patient stillness staring back.
David Moolten‘s most recent book, Primitive Mood (2009), won the T. S. Eliot Award from the Truman State University Press. He lives & writes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.