After nearly seventeen years of marriage we sometimes
spend our Friday nights in the basement, going
through boxes of old stuff,
trying to decide what to keep
and what to cast off.
It’s like the ocean floor down there,
where everything settles after being shaken,
You go through plastic bins full of children’s clothes,
preparing for this next baby, number six, and we
smile at the sight of clothes the other children wore:
a yellow rain coat; those monkey pajamas; boots
covered in cartoon insects with big eyes. Artifacts
from some other life, reminders of
this long and winding road. You sigh. You fold
each piece with care
and gently place everything here
or to cast off.
I unearth the boxes of yearbooks and old
journals, binders full of short stories I wrote. In those days
I was certain publication was just
around the corner. Yet here I am,
so many years later, on the cusp of perhaps a book,
or perhaps not. Still waiting.
This is the way of things, the subtle gathering of years,
the persistent belief that words, thought through,
will find their way to the surface.
And then I see a notebook from October, 1997, when
I first laid eyes on you. Noticed you for the first time.
I wrote seven words at the top of the page
of my American Lit Before 1900 binder:
“Fact of the day: she’s from Ohio”
How little we knew of one another.
I read the words out loud to you, and you smile and almost
cry and we laugh, thinking back to who we were.
Who were we? Who would we become? We
had no idea.
How could we? Yet.
Yet here we are in the basement of a row home, 20 years
in the city, the sound of five children running the wooden
floorboards above us, the amniotic movement of another child
twisting and turning inside you.
Here we are, sifting through two decades.
This has been the way
of these years, the keeping and the casting off.
The sense that somehow, that which matters most
will find its way to the surface.