Apology by Marie Howe


The shadows have come back, circling the room like headlights.
It is for this I leave you, sudden October, the leaves burning.
bike crash and slamming kitchen door, the boys scrambling
into the back woods.

My mother, standing at the stove, has raised her spoon, about
to ask a question, like my father, his last week living, who
wandered from room to room almost satisfied, but for something
one more thing he couldn’t remember.

But all this was years ago. Last night, in a dream, my father
refused to play King Lear. He had married someone else.
She stood in the wings, wrapped in an old tweed coat, looking
at her watch. Already the facts dissemble.

Even now, as you desire me, my mother is stirring the question
into the burning soup as my father’s mouth closes,
the one hundred and nine years between them walking away
like a man who has knocked on the wrong door.

The boys, crossing the street behind him, making small rude noises,
are growing out of their sneakers. My brother already wears
his nervous look. The leaves are burning. Next year, even this
will be outlawed.

Understand, I love you, even as I turn from you like this,
stumbling breathless down a dim and disappearing street behind
a man who squints at house numbers, bewildered, about to say
something I can almost hear.

—Marie Howe

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