Staying the Night
I want to touch everything she touched
yesterday: my fingers lingering on her shelves
and counter. I flip through the paperback
left half-read on the nightstand, inhale
the crumpled yellow hand towel near her
bathroom sink, breathe in the dust and dander
of her apartment air. My wife sifts a pile
of unpaid bills, lifts a framed photo,
reads an inscription on a birthday card.
This home’s a sudden museum.
From the living room, I hear our daughter
knock a glass thing over and giggle.
I move to save the breakables from wreckage
then remember: nothing can now be ruined.
We’re the guests of someone gone.
From a stack of papers, I pull some brief note
she wrote, marvel at her slight, precise lettering.
On her fridge shelf, a tub of leftover spaghetti,
an unfinished sandwich. In a drawer
the perishables sweat: a new head of lettuce,
a few pieces of fresh fruit. I choose to eat
the peach she chose from the grocery’s
produce rows, not knowing it would outlive her.
Later, before going to sleep in her bed,
I see a still life next to the kitchen sink:
one white bowl upside down, one fork, one knife,
and beside the faucet her unwashed drinking glass.
Lifting the glass, I hope to see her lipstick’s
usual pink wedge, scour for a fingerprint,
some smudge. I fill it half-full with water, cover
the rim with my lips, turn it in a circle, slowly.
This is how I kiss my sister goodbye.
Robert Fanning is the author of four full-length poetry collections: American Prophet (Marick Press), The Seed Thieves (Marick Press), Our Sudden Museum (Salmon, 2017) and Severance (Salmon, 2019) as well as two chapbooks: Sheet Music (Three Bee Press), and Old Bright Wheel (Ledge Press Poetry Award). His poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, The Atlanta Review, and other journals. Recent work has also appeared on The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor on National Public Radio and on the nationally-syndicated radio program The Poet and the Poem, recorded at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. He is a Professor of Creative Writing at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, MI., where he lives with his wife, sculptor Denise Whitebread Fanning, and their two children.
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