The way a gust of resentment
can still rip through me,
quickened by a stray memory
of some nameless day
when you refused to listen,
and I, tongue-tied, couldn’t mount
a worthy defense.

How I now burst to articulate my case,
heedless of time’s passing.
Confusing once again
the law of winning arguments
with the court of compassion.

The way the quiet animal within
pulls me from the stream of my day—
turns the faucet off, dishes half done,
hands dangling in soapy water
as I fill with dismay,
you gone many years
from the kitchen of the living.

How reenacting old fights might be
just another crafty mask for grief.

The way healing also wears a mask
as I shape words to contain
the storm of those other words,
like a mother wrapping a tantrum in her arms,
as I always wished you would do,
while an imagined, more spacious
embrace held us both.

Susan Middleton edits science books and writes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. She is a co-founder of Slate Roof Press, which in 2007 published her chapbook Seed Case of the Heart. In 2018 she won first prize in the Beal Prize for Poetry.