In the dark, everything looks like nothing

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December 21, 2018 by The Citron Review

by Francine Witte

 

1. At some point, my parents were young and happy. I have the photo to prove it. Black and white. Color of bones and midnight.

2. First day of teaching, all I do is hand out bus passes. I wonder if this is what my mother did on her first day as a teacher. Where’s mine? a ninth grader wants to know. I can’t find it, I say. Tell me your name again. He walks out in a huff.

3. My grandfather sits at a desk and talks on a telephone. I never said more than hello to him. Back then, grandfathers didn’t speak to children. Whoever is on the phone isn’t a child. I wonder if he ever spoke to my father.

4. The day my mother leaves, she waits till my father’s at work. He works in the city and so she has time. My mother will not give me her new address. You are grown, she says. I’ll call you when I can.

5. My father plays his clarinet. He holds it and looks at it like it’s a baby. I must have looked like a clarinet, once.

6. My last day of teaching, a student I don’t know blows into my classroom. Tells me to watch myself after school. I mean it, bitch, he says and pushes me against the chalkboard. I have nothing to give him. Not even a scream.

7. My father is blowing out the candles. I have made him a party to soften the news that my mother is getting remarried. He is happy at this moment. Leaning forward, looking young again. Next week, my mother will also be young, dancing at her wedding like a bride.

8. We bury my father with his clarinet. He will play it in heaven, my cousin says. Everyone smiles and agrees. Except for my sister, who never liked my parents. She says as soon as we’re gone, the gravediggers will steal my father’s clarinet.

9. My father also played the guitar. Strummed out sound instead of music. For a short time, he and my mother would sing together.

10. I leave my mother for the last time, certain she doesn’t even know who I am. My mother, probably used up all her words. I leave her in the room at the nursing home. It is early evening. She sits there in what is left of the light.

 

Francine Witte is the author of four poetry chapbooks and two flash fiction chapbooks. Her full-length poetry collection, Café Crazy, was published by (Kelsay Books). Her play, Love is a Bad Neighborhood, was produced in NYC in December 2018. She is a former English teacher. She lives in NYC.

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Photo of child reading on busy subway by Nathan Elliot.

Nathan Elliott. Newfoundland Boy on Montréal Subway. Montréal, Ligne Verte, 2018.

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