Familiar Strangers


After her death, an old letter

tucked among handwritten recipes,

discarded keys, and cashed mortgage checks

turned up in my mother’s drawer.

The yellowed envelope bore

elegant script:  Barbara Smith

Her photograph a black and white cameo

in my mother’s high school yearbook,

thin arched eyebrows and coiffed hair

like all the girls wore in 1960.


   I hear you’re married now, but

   we should get together soon.

   I know you hate writing, but

   try to keep in touch.




Dust hung in sunlit spaces, outside

children squealed, their feet heavy

in the driveway next door.  So

I’m not the only one who bent

in the wind to have her listen,

to get a word back. 


A year abroad in Namibia walking

through hot sand to an empty mailbox

at the Post.  I showed up on her porch

the next winter with only a backpack

and a scrawny black cat,

it took her longer than it should have

to recognize who I was.

What does it mean for time to move on?


I returned the letter to its envelope

in the drawer, tried to recall

the sound of my mother’s voice.

Christine Taylor, a multiracial English teacher and librarian, resides in her hometown Plainfield, New Jersey.  She serves as a reader and contributing editor at OPEN:  Journal of Arts & Letters.  Her work appears in Modern Haiku, Glass:  A Journal of Poetry, Room, and The Rumpus among others.  She can be found at www.christinetayloronline.com