Room 304
by Marcel A. Duclos

Behind mother and son,
the shingled cape
he painted at thirteen,
lifting a ladder
equal to his weight.

The Summer screens
he hung in early Spring
weighed little compared
to the wooden storms.

Behind them, out of sight,
the peonies, late that year–
shoots pushing up to lick the sun.

She worries, efforts a
smile in sadness.
She asks, "What's wrong?
What can I do?"
"Nothing," he replies.
They say no more.
Nothing lifts the heavy dirt
he cannot spade–
the neighbor's threat
to break his sister
if he told.

The ironed smock
declares her fragile health–
her heart buttoned
behind warm green eyes.

He now suspects an early wound
she hid until the end in room 304–
the bluish tint coursing up her arms.

"My only regret," she whispered
in that late hour, "is that
I did not show my love enough
nor did I let myself be loved enough."

When will I let the boy
unbutton his starched shirt?
When will I feel her hand,
her fingertips around his waist?


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