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January 06, 2010

by Rishma Dunlop 

All winter in stucco on 65th I learned to love

what couldn’t speak: what began in milk and 

blood. Baby, cat, the man who worked long weeks

away from home. Forty below. My breath before me, 

snow covering stiff trees burlapped against 

a procession of storms. I shoveled walks, plugged

the car into a black heater. Nursed the baby, fed

the cat. Waited for the man who I was slow to love. 

Sometimes I’d ride the bus to the bistro, 

the only place in town that served espresso—

let it flow bitter down my throat—

the bistro where Czech brothers in crisp white

shirts and black trousers knew all about the baby, 

the cat, the man who was away and I was slow to love.

At home, in quiet, I folded laundry, changed the baby’s 

diapers, fed the cat, watched backyards fill with snow. 

In spring, green pushing through sidewalk cracks, 

I woke, pressed my mouth to the back of the man—

you—who I was slow to love. And bed and house

smelled forever of me falling suddenly into love, rappelling 

the past in a blaze through decades of renovations, creak 

of floorboards, families coming and going, ledgers of forgotten 

bills, tables laid for supper, someone waving on a front porch,

new brides, the washing of the dead, all the stories

I never wrote about us, your arms around the baby, 

around me, sealed into cracked plaster with a kiss.