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In the Year My Mother Would Be 77

Let me tell you, it takes some discipline

to leave the phone be when I think of him,

the grifting boyfriend who lives still in her house.


Last time I called, a woman picked up the phone.

I heard about his plans to marry again,

his love for the woman’s daughter. What a feeling!


Call me small, but I don’t want to know

if he ever married that woman same age as me.

I don’t want to know what plants she grows,


or if she ever tried on that dress he kept.

Has she thrown out my mother’s dishes? I don’t know.

Has she painted the cabinets? Read her unpublished poems?


He said the girl loves reading. She’s got my books.

I hope she finds my Edna St. Vincent Millay.

I hope this, though I do not know her name,


that she reads those poems and finds in them that strength,

that verve, that edge that she (though I don’t want to know)

will need to get through those drunken afternoons,


the blurry nights, the quiet quiet mornings

and patient reassembly of herself.

Though I don’t want to know it won’t be enough,


(and I know it won’t), I hope I left behind

enough of me that he could not wipe out

all traces of the girl who did survive.


When I said my name, when she handed over the phone,

Why are you calling here? That was a surprise.

In his suicidal months, I phoned each day.


My absence is like the kitchen microwave.

Empty, handy, always standing ready.

I’m not such a fool to think the man has changed.




Kathrine Varnes is the author of a book of poems, The Paragon, and co-editor with Annie Finch of An Exaltation of Forms. A former academic, Varnes now schleps her acting son of 12 years to auditions, sets, and back stages.