ON GOING BACK
Small things brought comfort: matchweed, toadflax,
the shaking of sea grape in a squall,
a loitering stand of sandhill cranes.
Out the window, the glimpsed spans of osprey;
along the berm, sprinting sandpipers,
the resolute attendance of blue
herons shadowing fishermen, who cast
chest-deep, knowing what’s always been known:
Some of the catch will fall their way. The sand,
the same, each grain a legend, shells not husks
or hulls but artifacts, their cause disappeared.
Profusion and plethora, even the sea
turtles lay some eggs as prey. Awakened
by the moon, they race toward circumstance.
The medium said the spirit gives her
certain words. Today it’s haricot verts.
My mother would send the meal back
if the green beans were at all crunchy.
How dare you serve this to me, she’d say
and since she’d died, once in a while,
I’d say how dare you in her accent,
and we would laugh with love about it.
She said she’d had a beautiful life,
or, rather, that her life was a thing of beauty.
Some thought she was weak, the youngest
of eighteen, but she was strong. She said
she would sit back and observe
to find out who the assholes were,
and some people thought that reticence
meant that she was slow.
When she was here, she says,
she stood up for things. My mother
now wants to discuss Roe v. Wade
through the medium. I know she
would have thought of her brother
who served the longest sentence
in her country’s history. Of the fight
between her parents when he
was conceived, how her older sister
tried to stop it by throwing a piano
bench, how that original conflict
seemed to haunt him into gang life.
I think about how when he escaped
he phoned my mother; how she helped
him without question, until
it was clear he had been in jail so long
he had to go back to survive.
I’m comforted that given this one chance
to say something, my mother from the dead
says this. She also says it is my job
to find some joy every day.
Caroline Maun is an associate professor and Chair of English at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, where she teaches creative writing and American literature. Her volumes of poetry include The Sleeping (Marick Press, 2006), What Remains (Main Street Rag, 2013), and three chapbooks, Cures and Poisons and Greatest Hits, published by Pudding House Press, and Accident, published by Alice Greene & Co. Caroline has also been published in Asheville, Poetry Review, The Bear River Review, Bitterzoet Magazine, The Cape Rock, Crack the Spine, Delmarva Review, El Portal, Euphony, Evening Street Review, Failbetter, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Laurel Review, The MacGuffin, The Main Street Rag, The Midwest Quarterly, Pennsylvania English, Mount Hope Magazine, Third Wednesday, The Opiate, Paragon Journal, Peninsula Poets, South Carolina Review, Sweet: A Literary Confection, Sweet Tree Review, Waving Hands Review, Word For/Word, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Eleven Eleven, among others.