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Now that we are leaving
by Paula Goldman

who’ll watch over the silver poplar bare
and rising over the bluff spreading its meager
branches over the lake on these reluctant
spring days when we walk and you need
a hat to cover your windblown hair sparse
and white as the tree against the cold blue
the sky and I hardly know how you or
the tree waned which makes me sad
to say as if I were a somnambulist                                                   
not seeing the tree change in midsummer                             
as you did when we were busy with children
thoughts of winter impossible in July                                     
now I watch the tree until it’s a fixture                                     
in my mind like the crystal chandelier
we’re leaving to others in the house where                                     
I’ve lived as many years as in my mother’s                                    
that filthy kitchen behind our butcher shop                                   
with its smell of slop creeping through the alley                                   
window swearing I’d never take her place             
the sourness of bread that doesn’t rise            
in a life that closes your eyes with lye                                  
between four bare walls of enmity                                    
and marriage but even now as I scrub                                      
the broiler looking out onto this tree-lined
street I taste her bitterness                                   
and if I could end this interminable                                   
grieving for her life and mine,                                   
we wouldn’t be leaving.



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