My father said, So what do you do?
I stopped, and replied, I sing in the choir.
Choir? said Mother, That must take some work.
I said, It takes a lot,
And practice. He flicked his ash
Into the hearth and I tried to stand taller.
It fell as small snow. My shoes were tight.
Do you perform?
Not on my own, Ma, I said, But we do.
The choir. We are many. She dropped her head
As he made a noise.
Outside was getting in, between the drapes.
I wish you'd told us, she said,
We'd like to have known before now.
The fire cracked. He made the noise again,
We could have come to watch.
You can still come, I said, eager as a boy.
Oh, I don't know. He could still speak
To throw me off. He sucked on the end of it,
Chucked it in to burn. It's a bit late for that now.
Season's nearly over, eh.
There is no season, I said. There is no season,
Mother said, pushing in,
It's all the time. He rubbed his red hands fast.
Oh well, he said, You'll let us know how
You're getting along.
What do you sing? she said, craning up.
Oh, I said, Just songs. Everything.
Yes, we said, Yes. He was still looking
Down at the wood, white, shaking into air
And fading out of sight, out of being.
I saw her eyes were closed.
Published in Poetry Review, 95:4