Unhappy, she slammed the car door
despite ice cream, despite new duds
and laughing so hard in the aisles
of Macy’s that she couldn’t stand up
straight.

 

He is unhappy. He is always unhappy
with traffic and the electric lawnmower,
the place I set the glass on the counter
that is not the place he wants it set.
Only this month he is uncertain
if he is unhappy; this month, he might
be depressed. It has been thirty days
since his brother died.

 
Tonight, he told me he really thinks it’s
the beer, the beer and the wine
or maybe the occasional shot
of bourbon just before bed,
to help him fall asleep although
it can’t keep him from waking up
at three a.m. and counting days and
hours and weeks and years

 
This year she is eleven,
the difference between
his age and mine a whole
life-time, her life-time,
kindergarten and a first kiss, bullying
and seventeen shoe sizes
walking between us
on the way to the refrigerator
asking us, what can I eat?

 
Sometimes, I think I am the loneliest
person I know, as much as one
can know oneself, and maybe
the saddest, although mostly
I am only sad when they are unhappy
or angry, yelling at me or slamming
the car door, telling me, both of them,
I don’t know why I do it, after
they yell at me and slam which
makes me unhappier than anything
ever has, more than hot-wheel tracks
and switches, waiting in hot cars
with all the windows rolled up
more, even than razors.

 
Only the dogs are positive,
Positively positive, all tongue
and wag and leaning into me
on the couch sniffing each toe
in turn the way I used to count
her piggies.

 
The dogs stand at the door
Before the knob turns, more
excited before it does
than after when one of us
steps in. That’s what love
has become, an engine
cut in the drive, a familiar
scent on the other side
of a hollow core door,
a voice as a key turns saying,
It’s just me. It’s just me.

 

 


Tiff Holland is the author of the novella-in-flash “Betty Superman.” Her poetry and prose have appeared in The Mississippi Review, Frigg, Karamu and many other journals.