I Loved Evenings

out on the tiny square

of front porch, dragging out the kitchen

chairs, and feeling a bit of breeze

fanning the late edition pink sheets

from the Kansas City Star

she’d let us sleep on the floor those nights

the cool linoleum rug in the front room

better than the hot mattress in airless bedrooms

I loved her then, and the way she would take

time to teach me the names of birds

how she planted a circle of Ragged Robins

one year around the wren house

how she let me ride my bike down to the

lending library at the grade school

hated how she wouldn’t let me read

more than an hour a day, set the timer

its bell rendering me Pavlov’s dog

loved her angel food cake but hated

how I watched her cry for the first time

when the ants swarmed it at the county fair

saw for the first time how winning meant

so much to her when my eyes saw only

how we lost at everything

didn’t love being marched to school

in plaid flannel lined corduroy leggings

that made me the butt of everyone’s jokes

equally hated the red plaid lunch box that lost

its handle that she tied shut with brown twine

begged for paper sacks that were too expensive

hated how I seemed to be the only one that felt

how people gawked and how we never talked

about those elephants in our rooms

about how different we were as

we crouched in our pew at the parish church

people slipping us coats and shoes after the service

how I loved those tickets already paid for to bazaar suppers

that meant we could go somewhere new where no one

knew our names and I could run through damp grass

after dark and chase fireflies and pretend no one

was calling me until my father came and herded me

toward the car, even though he wasn’t around

when strangers came at Christmas that year leaving

bundles like little holidays that kept me loving them

forever, their generosity helping to teach me

that love was something you opened your heart to,

your mind, so it might reach your soul where all love resides

hated how hard it was to sort it all out, that love and

not-love, how I could want to be with her full of wrens

and robins and then come morning wishing I could be

somewhere else, like having to explain why

even dreaded boarding school was more preferable

for its very predictability than those last days

when I stood at the foot of her rumpled bed

and fled her voice once again railing at me

until I would slink out the front door of the nursing home

dragging the toddler alongside, only days from

birthing her next grandchild, and leaving again

wondering how between us there could be

so many different kinds of love.