How Was it Exactly?
Did she run away first,
take a job in another city,
leave him with the kids,
with him taking his turn next?
Was it stealthy
when he didn’t come home
that late afternoon
to greet the children one by one--
as they waited by the door?
Or did she agree that he should go—
dreams stillborn with the struggle to feed seven.
(And why didn't he see ahead to this
when he'd pulled her to him each night?)
There were better jobs somewhere
than the stink of the tannery.
He would send money home to them.
So was it the unexpected joy of freedom
that made him forget?
All that's clear is she scrubbed hospital floors
washed dishes in hotel kitchens
Kept them alive:
Six mouths meagerly filled,
six bodies barely sheltered.
Had she expected anything different?
Carol Brockfield has been doing family research for almost fifty years now, way before the internet brought us armchair genealogy.
She is the current chair of the Rogue Valley Chapter of the Oregon State Poetry Association, and her poems have been published in The Hiss Quarterly, The Cimarron Review, Women Writers, flashquake, Quite Curious, Verseweavers, and Napa Valley College anthologies. A former New Yorker and Californian, she now lives in Southern Oregon.