Some of those things
that come out of your mouth.
Your honest, pithy repartee.
The moments when you can
tell your point struck
in the small center,
yet you continued to push
down on the blade.
But I can tell that it pierces
you, too, as you leave your prey
raw and bleeding
with your feigned indifference,
your sharp look of dismissal.
Many times I try to put myself
in your place, imagining how
you’d been hurt somewhere
in that Kitteridge Clan.
And little by little it seeped out—
a father who’d committed suicide,
a mother who couldn’t cope.
But you, you seemed to sacrifice
your first-born son without mercy.
You cried once or twice on the outside,
yet I wonder about the overflowing
rain that fills within—internal edges
gaping, broken with rust.
My mother was like you,
with her caustic retorts, a screen
for her scars—repelling the ones
she needed the most.
Your quiet, compliant husbands.
I mourned for her even while she lived.
Even in the nursing home,
I reminded her to be kinder to the staff,
but she said, It’s too late, I don’t know how.
Folks like you both, Olive,
like you and my mom—
that steel facade that made you
I want to believe
you both cry
from the joy
what your children
my mother’s grave,
the only headstone
in our small-town cemetery
covered with a mildew,
not even the caretaker
Marilyn Johnston is a writer and filmmaker. She has received a fellowship from Oregon Literary Arts, a Robert Penn Warren prize from the New England Writers, and was selected to be a Fishtrap Fellow. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She lives in Salem, Oregon.