by Fran Westwood

Small Assurances

I remember siblings close. A table, vine holding.
Cornmeal crusted pizza. You, back in East York—
a spontaneous window,

an extra chair stuffed in,
a full plate. Dough stretched fine, dressed thick
with provolone and prosciutto lace—

we clustered, heads stooping under
my low basement ceiling. You with new shoes.

An elbow splashed a mug of wine,
condiments moved to the bookshelf. The air

just tinged with winter’s fingers.
I thought I had worn out loneliness,
its dysthymic grips, wanted to warn you—

gifts, troubles, come and go
but hoping you’d live a straight line
through shadow and empty tables.

The feast hangs shrunken. Extra leaves
huddle in closet corners. Folded up, waiting.

I try to remember how you looked
as you headed for the train.


My Father’s Witness

There is nothing like seeing
your purple and blue plaid button down flap
off your hanger bone frame. Belt fastened
at the innermost loop. Cheek skin shrunken, veins vacant—
lungs missing the minimum ingredients for breath.

For months, nothing
of your familiar broad footprints. We wonder
when your careful pen and even your old low spirit
will ever come home. Discouragement, at least
a feeling. A passion, a pulse. We wonder if tenderness
will surprise us again in your brown felt reading chair,
in the corner between the doorways of our rooms—
your voice making a thousand dog-eared pages live.

There is nothing like opening
your letter entitled encouraging news,
seeing your historic four exclamation marks.
A frantic scan of your detailed accounts—
platelet levels regrowing. Terror of blood transfusions
decreasing. Your repeated use of the word good.


Photo by Ekrulila from Pexels