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they’ll arrive at the house

in the poem where the man,

who is the father, who is

the husband, who is the body

in the earth—

but we haven’t

gotten there yet;

we are in the car

with his mother and sister,

who are talking— people-talk,

busy-talk, light nothing-talk

of a weekend afternoon—

on their way to visit

the son, the brother,after

two days, no word and

the fear

that lives   like a soreness

in the back of the throat.   and now

his mother thinks maybe

of silence, of her   son, who

has always been a child of

silence, and now is this all

it will be?   but

not yet, there’s just time

now for these still-harmless

thoughts,   these nothing-

thoughts   nervous nothing-

thoughts   of the living.

because when the car pulls up

to the house, it is only   a house

and not a foreshadowing or

a place of   ends   or beginnings.

It is just plaster and bricks

and a door where there is no

answer, which sounds like —

[what they already know].

but they have been wrong

before; they may be wrong

again.   please let them not be

prophets;   let them not be

the ferrymen to their own grief.

let them be

wrong and human and

unknowing.   and if the side door

is open, let them go in

and greet only   the living.

and if his sister calls and there is

no answer, perhaps her brother

is simply unhearing,   silent.

perhaps her brother is simply sleeping

in silence—but

is there only such a silence

as the grave?

because his mother knows

before she sees it—

the it,   not him,   of the son—

no longer


son,         no longer

the breath or voice of her

son.   there he is.   and she

already knows but   still

tests the air with the question,

calls his name     once just

to watch it   fall.

from ErouFind more by Maya Phillips at the library

Copyright © 2019 Maya Phillips
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in Maya Phillips Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.