Who is your river? Who is your kitchen window?

by Amorak Huey

She asks almost
everyone: her daughters,
the man she’s having
an e-mail love affair with,
her oncologist, her mother,
the girl who sells her latté.
They came to her when a man
leaned over a somber desk.
Any questions? She doesn’t ask
her husband. He wouldn’t
see the value. Or he would
and want to know
her answers. Which would be worse?
Almost everyone says
mother for kitchen window,
or wife. Rivers are children
or lovers. Some best friends.
Rarely spouses. Never
parents. She writes
these answers
(almost answers,
not quite answers at all)
in a notebook found in a dresser
of childhood artifacts:
the cracked blue shell of a robin’s egg,
faded pencils, the Sunday dress
of a long-lost doll, marbles
that rattle when the drawer closes.
Earlier pages hold parts of speech,
pronouns to be memorized,
verbs to be conjugated
(one goes, one has gone, one went),
sentences diagrammed in tenth grade:
On Saturday mornings, the man
claimed the kitchen
and made pancakes
for the children.

Subjects, verbs, objects stand
proudly on a single plane
while words unnecessary
to the independent clause cling
to branches or roots
with a hunger
one knows only if one is inessential,
not the breakfast or the one
making it, but the kitchen window,
in between and invisible,
and outside that window a river,
indifferent in the morning sun
and coursing unceasingly
to a spangled sea.
One never knows how far
one has gone or when
it’s too late to come back.

*Photo courtesy Andrew Griffith.