I can no longer stand to be in my apartment.
Out on the sidewalk I search the faces of those who
come towards me, ready to nod good morning.
I want more than a coffee. In the back of the 24-hour
quick mart, I see a man at the table where nobody ever sits,
unwrapping a plastic wrapped croissant.
He wears a baby blue windbreaker, with the insignia
of a bowling club. His distended eyes are splayed out
wide to each corner, unable to look at anyone directly,
which I recognize. He surveys his surroundings
as if he has just discovered nobody ever sits at his table,
beside all that toilet paper to eat their breakfast.
Whose son is he, or brother, I wonder?
Where has he gone, to be here?
We have been the same man, incapable of the quick
dignified greetings these customers share,
ordering their egg sandwiches and lottery tickets.
When he turns to me finally, and I offer him a silent hello,
he appears both curious and confused like how
someone in tears when a joke is made,
can laugh and wear half a grin.
I cannot look away, and out of my uncomfortable body
I point to his breakfast, smile, and give a thumbs up
and out of his huddled body, he raises his breakfast
three inches off the table, flakes flaking off, and with his
half-pained smile he inspires me to wear
for five blocks after, he says, “Croissant.”
My father’s wedding ring encircles a little corner
of blond wood at the bottom of my sock drawer
shaped more oblong than round from all
the things he tried to shove into place:
aluminum lids to garbage cans, two-by-fours
not flush, or engine covers to outboards
that denied him all but a repair bill. Bashed down,
the ring looks up at me with the same vacuous stare
that came over him when he took a short break
from one of his fits of anger. He would look
out into the sunlight of the open basement door,
three penny nail in his mouth, or sit up
from the stern of a boat, seawater blooming
rainbows of motor oil at his feet, wrench loose
in hand, slack jawed, eyes large, as though
he had just heard a voice ask an unanswerable
question of himself. What if he were shown
a patience he never knew? I keep the drawer open
to return his stare as long as I can, not wanting
to shut it too quickly and leave him there alone.
The fish casts its August shadow on the bronze lake bottom below. I walk into the woods. The last full moon of summer begins above the pines. A stage set of western light still. I see a loon doven, and hear its mournful call which always sounds to me like it never expects an answer. My sister whom I love and will never know fully leaves the cottage, the screen door slams, delayed over the water, silence. “It’s just a toothbrush you want?” she says, clear as if she was standing next to me. Someone told me once the Germans have a word for missing home while at home. “I forgot the…” I hear her say, and the rest is taken by the cottage door, the darkening lake, and the cry of two loons about something far off.
Sean Sutherland has had poems published in the literary magazines: The Meadow, Lime Hawk, Gravel, Prick of the Spindle, Blast Furnace, the 30th anniversary anthology; The Writers Studio at 30, and The Maine Review, for which he won honorable mention for their poetry prize in 2015. Sean is a MacDowell Colony Fellow whose plays have been produced in Maine, Los Angeles, and New York City. He self -published a chapbook of short poems and haiku in 2010 entitled, “Forever in the City, Forever Arriving.” He is currently studying with Philip Schultz in his master class at The Writers Studio in New York City.