“Absence Under the Eaves,” “Elfride’s Father” and “The Book”

Issue 27 by Christa Lubatkin

“Absence Under the Eaves,” “Elfride’s Father” and “The Book”

Absence under the Eaves

folks rarely stopped by our flat

high under the eaves

maybe a bill collector

or a nosey child welfare woman

out of breath

bringing with her bound files

and a jiggle of fat under her chin

it was a cold-water two-room place

and heat was begged from coal

lugged up fifty steps

from the cellar

with the key around my neck

I came home from school

to the quiet of no-one-there

wishing mother was like others

waiting at the door

from five stories above the world

it was a challenge

to call me in for the night

dusk was my cue

to trek up the stairs

but fading daylight was easily

ignored in the thrall

of chalk and sidewalk games

at day’s end

mother stood on tired legs

in the evening kitchen

stirring and steaming

cabbage, spinach and eggs

burned flour soup

meat was mostly absent

absent like my mother

Elfride’s Father

at thirteen I was afraid of nothing

set free as I was from the parental

control of a working mom

I knew about bad boys

how to attract them

and how to repel

made my own rules

within the constraints of grown-ups’

acceptable manners

I was afraid of nothing

until a man’s wet kiss on my neck

at the communal mailboxes

raised my antenna

alerted me to adjust my book of rules

no I said, when my friend’s father knocked

urgently at my door

I was afraid of nothing

with the door between us

The Book

At day’s end you pat the space

beside you on the sofa

I close my book reluctantly

and join you out of habit

But the pages come between us

as I trudge on feet

numb to the sting of pain

I am part of the masses

belongings on our backs

or stacked on pushcarts

rumbling across frozen earth

with possessions we may never need

You do not see my face

in the dark

the tears that track over

my air-conditioned cheeks

while on TV we watch

winners and losers

perform outlandish feats

with food no one eats

Heavy legs

my face red-cold

a crust of bread softening

over days in my mouth

I hope for a potato field to pilfer

when the host of hosts

has dissolved on my tongue

there is no going back

no walking out of the storm

into yesterday’s sun

About the Author

Christa Lubatkin