My brother e-mails me about how, of late, people have cast words
like stares that tell him he has not provided well enough for his family;
that their financial struggles have been a burden, like rocks
in bags on their backs they didn’t know were there. As he passed
through the kitchen yesterday, Judge Judy said if a man can’t provide for his family,
he never should have had children, and my brother thinks she’s talking to him.
All I can see is him tossing newspapers at doorsteps
in the quivering dark; before that, I see him stretching to check the curvature
of the cabinet he made, the meter of his fingertips speak: flawless.
Even before that, sixty-plus hours a week, he managed a team of packagers
who found the rhythm of the assembly line not for efficiency but for him.
But I cannot dismiss his daunting regret that ripples through the computer screen.
I know the brewing, wrenching orations of regret that keeps a rain check
in our hearts. It’s not helpful that we watched our father
do this—sitting in his maroon leather armchair, he’d rest a cheek in a palm,
turn toward the window and when he shook his head slightly we knew
the burdens surged in his head. So what can I say
to comfort my brother? We do come to an age when we can tally our lives
like at the end of a game of cards, when we recount how we misplayed
certain hands. Or we can see the vestige of water before us
and what the reflection reveals—seek what the unpresuming present
gives us, and move forward. But he already knows all this.
He is his own witness after all. So I say what is safe and simple:
Try to get a good night’s sleep and we’ll talk tomorrow.
Yvonne Higgins Leach is the author of Another Autumn, WordTech Editions, 2014. Her poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies. She spent decades balancing a career in communications and public relations, raising a family, and pursuing her love of writing poetry. Now a full-time poet, she splits her time living in Snohomish and Spokane, Washington. For more information, visit http://www.yvonnehigginsleach.com.