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