The past panting behind me with ragged breath
like a Chinese dragon or a three-headed chimera
and oh lord I am too old to keep running
too tired to outpace rememories
and here they come as I collapse on the grass
one after another up the road, flocking like fallen angels,
some with festering sores, others terribly thin
and here’s one with heartbreaking hope

They start telling their stories, my stories
left behind long ago, the child locked
outside so her mother could slurp
scotch in peace and pass out
the girl who spent Sundays with an uncle
who had bad breath and prowling hands
the teen who stopped eating
to prove she could

I order pizza from Papa John’s and spread out
a checkered cloth along with a bottle of Chianti
as we catch up on the past, singing Lean on Me
in every key at once, the joyous cacophony
startling the blue jays and squirrels
who scatter like the break shot
in billiards, and then we walk
across the field of felt toward a better future

That was one way it could have gone
if I had dared to listen to truths wrapped
in depression, sealed with dread, covered in dust
but lord forgive me I am not ready to deal
so I left them behind, sprawled on the tablecloth,
slightly sloshed, as I walked down the road alone
listening to the fading notes of a song
I couldn’t sing, at least not yet

Claire Scott, an award-winning poet, has multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work appears in the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.