Our Tongues Hold No Words

Your dinner tray arrives: bland food
accompanied by a breakfast menu.
You tick off preferences that promise
you will be here tomorrow, but
it is an empty promise. Tomorrow
the phone will ring too early.

Remember the Las Cruces campground—
a butterfly lighted on your shoulder,
chipmunks chattered like sparrows,
you removed stitches from your knee
with fingernail scissors and tweezers.
You loved each mite and midge.

The next week, five days and nights,
you wore scrubs coated in cat hair
and food stains, though you did not eat,
your flame extinguished by runnels
of overlapping tears. It doesn’t matter.
I’m so tired. You slept eighteen hours.

Now, we sleepwalk to the coffee shop.
What did we say that we shouldn’t?
Our hearts wring inside-out. What
didn’t we say that we should? We reach
for you, but you are beyond reach.
You color our lives with a purple crayon.

Ann Howells has edited Illya’s Honey, since 1999. Her publications are: Black Crow in Flight (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2007) and Under a Lone Star (Village Books Press, 2016). She also has upcoming: Letters for My Daughter (Flutter Press, 2016). She is currently editing Cattlemen & Cadillacs, an anthology.