After Reading the Note from my Cousin
It’s a card from Moab, sandstone
arch stretched, as if a rock
could be elastic, could extend
like an arm reaching across the table
for dinner rolls, that reaches Michigan
with her words from Utah.
She’s been to Palm Springs, she’s packed
the place in Phoenix, she’s got a room
rented, a ski pass, and a job
in Vail. Now it’s just getting there,
she says. Yes, just getting there, I think,
looking at the curly blue words
on white cardstock, the small i
and ampersands, the dashes and ellipses.
Here’s someone already taking flight.
But among the fragments bumping into
one another, an exclamation point or two,
a hot tub under a full moon, clouds
and cold and snow, and a final phrase,
time to move on & live in joy.
This is the cousin who once arrived
with a sack of granola, two pans,
and a vegetarian dog at my door in Kansas.
After fifteen years, I recognized her
only when she said my mother’s name.
She left her job five years ago
to travel with her mother
on that night train to the country
of lost names and landscapes,
conversation dropping like snipped threads.
And then my mother, just a year later,
surprising us all by departing on the same train
before we even knew she had a ticket,
the two of us left in a thicket
of brothers and my father tending
the bleeding heart that bloomed
the morning she did not see.
Just getting there, I hear.
This is the week of Thanksgiving,
tables calling us from our dark corners
to handshakes and ham, potatoes
the way Aunt Phyllis mashed them,
my mother’s molded jello salad,
our grandmother’s pumpkin pies.
Just getting there, she writes:
under the cold November moon,
snow obliterates the swirls of tire tracks
in the driveway, no one coming,
no one going.