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***

The neighbour's lawn mower roars and recedes.

My mother sleeps on the loveseat, my father

on the couch. I shake out mats in the blinding

porch, gather grey tea towels for the laundry.

My father bustles stiffly out to plug in

the kettle, comes up from the cellar with chunks

of maple, measuring, figuring - how to make

wooden nuts and bolts - then is suddenly

sunk in an armchair, open-mouthed asleep,

while June sunlight storms through the house.

***

I ask about the empty mirror frame on the kitchen

wall. My father glances at me and away, looking

reluctant, caught. Then speaks with odd formality,

doggedly, against some current of shyness or disbelief

or sorrow or fear. He says while they were having

lunch there at the table a few weeks ago they heard

a loud bang like a gunshot close by. He looked around

and found the mirror down on the floor, its heavy glass

split up the middle. "You try to get that off of there,"

he points to the empty frame. A slotted hole in its back

locks the frame tight to a round-headed screw set deep

in a wall stud. I lift and slowly work it free, then press it

back into place, centred, anchored. Enclosed blank

wall. "There's no way that could have come off

by itself," he says, bare-headed under low dark cloud.

***

Curled on the loveseat under a blanket

much of each day, sleeping or merely

still, her open eyes travelling the room.

She never grieves for herself, never

stands apart disowning or lamenting

the ruin, but sometimes terrors sweep

through her, weightless spinning and inner

sleets, and she sits shaking, calling out that

she's falling, and my father or I hold her

trying to save her from deep space.

from Once

John Steffler


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