"Where have you been," says my old friend the
"and what have you been doing?" The question
weighs and measures me like an unpaid bill,
hangs in the air, waiting for some remittance.
Well, I've been coring apples, layering them
in raisins and brown sugar; I've been finding
what's always lost, mending and brushing,
pruning houseplants, remembering birthdays.
The wisdom of others thunders past me
like sonic booming; what I know of the world
fits easily in the palm of one hand
and lies quietly there, like a child's cheek.
Spoon-fed to me each evening, history
puts on my children's faces, because they
are the one alphabet all of me reads.
I've been setting the table for the dead,
rehearsing the absence of the living,
seasoning age with names for the unborn.
I've been putting a life together, like
supper, like a poem, with what I have.
Rhina P. Espaillat
Landscapes with Women: Four American Poets,
Singular Speech Press, ©
1999. Reprinted by permission
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