J s IS s FOR s JOHN s IN s OUR s HOUSE

 

In the August evening’s light,

The twins, with their mother, go to pick beans

From the bamboo fence

Where you had them help you

Plant, not so long ago.

 

The woman from the next house down

Joins them with hose in hand,

So the world won’t turn brown

Before the new tenant arrives.

Christopher flirts with her- the way three-year-olds flirt-

With tricks and hops

And declarations, while his sister

Holds tight the handful of beans

For tomorrow’s dinner.

 

We’re through explaining now, I think,

Why they took your things away,

And your car,

And why they came to clean.

Alexandra has learned to say,

“I miss John, Mama.”

 

You’ve come to say good-bye

On consecutive nights:

First to Alexandra’s dreams

And then to Christopher’s,

You, who couldn’t tell them apart,

In the beginning, when you passed our yard.

 

I was afraid for them,

When death looked at me from your eyes,

You were nothing I could fix for them,

You were as old as I and should have known better

Than to die in front of them.

 

If you’ve returned to me to say good-bye,

I might barely know,

My dreams, so walked upon,

Scarcely remain with morning.

But I do know too well where faces go

When children grow

And yours was just too early.