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September 2017, vol 13 no 3

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Kathryn J. Stevens

Room For Doubt
after Naomi Shihab Nye

When the therapist asks Are you daydreaming? Say no. Say you’re sorting through polaroids someone forgot to snap. Are they in color he’ll ask. Mostly gray you reply. I mean it’s the city and it’s been raining for days. But some of the pictures are black and white. The ones with roses and women in hats.

decorum . . .
sweet sherry
in a dime-store glass

Then describe the old building on the narrow street above the wide river. Mention the people standing about. How you can’t remember their faces. How they talk in the hushed tones of hospital waiting rooms. How they all speak German. Speak English you plead. Nicht heute, they answer.

blue haze
bent matches
in a copper ashtray

When he asks Is that all? Shake your head no. Say that there’s more, but it confuses you. There’s a room at the top of the stairs where dust motes swarm in watery light. And that you don’t know why, but the dust feels important. Mention the precise rows of metal folding chairs.

Finally, tell him about the strange man lying by the stage. The man wearing your father’s gray suit. This stranger. Your father. This strange father carefully brushed with powder and paint.

week-old roses
the tick of petals
on the hall table




Editor's Note: "Nicht heute" translates as "Not today."


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