The Dead Wait on the Living to Go on Living


The chairs wide-mouthed and silent in each others’ presence;
the cat crosses the floor, walking to the single shaft of sun.
I have come up the dark stairs, small, like the iceman,
milkman, the grocer’s son, day’s maid, shoulders brushing
plaster. The home breaks down so frequently, the future
depends more than ever on the teaching body. It’s late;
afternoon sun behind clouds the color of pearl and pussy willows,
cars hurtling home. Soon you will come home, hungry;
you will open the fridge and frown, find the milk, pour
a mug and sweeten it. The clay mask you made me
—marble eyes, a purple skin—has fallen under a load of books.
A bell like a buoy marks this window’s harbor. Among the mild
gray attics, all sheep, only the church is steep and belled
—mischievous goat. This isn’t thinking, ticking the world off
lamb by lamb. Cold, counting fingers close my eyes,
two dead coins. But here you are announcing yourself, just
as I’d imagined: “I’m home!” smelling like wood smoke and leaves.
There is something the living say, something under my tongue,
but you’re already past me, shedding your coat, radiating warmth.

Kim Garcia, author of Madonna Magdalene, is the recipient of the 2014 Lynda Hull Memorial Prize. She has been featured on The Writer’s Almanac, and her work has appeared or will appear in Crazy Horse, Mississippi Review, Cimarron Review and Subtropics, among others. She teaches creative writing at Boston College.