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          Driving My Daughter and Wife, With Child, To the Airport
          By John Jeffrey

          Of the drive, I remember
          only the relentless futility
          of the wipers.

          The rain, too,
          I remember the rain,
          blinding flood-falls of rain.

          And I remember the darkness,
          darkness such that I could not see
          the way, not the highway lines,
          not the turns lying ahead of me.

          What I don't remember is my wife,
          crumpled and small, child-small,
          smaller than I ever knew her, weeping
          the entire trip from Bethel to JFK.

          And I don't remember the sound
          of that whispered-weeping,
          or how I wanted to say something,
          anything that might comfort her,
          might quiet her,
          but didn't.

          Nor do I remember, after an hour
          of tears, wanting to ask her
          to stop, to tell her to stop,
          Will you please just stop?
          but didn't.

          I wasn't angry--
          I was afraid,
          afraid that her crying
          would catch like a yawn
          or a plague.

          I don't remember any of that.

          I do remember the wipers,
          flopping back and forth, useless.

          But I don't remember Jessie,
          a month passed her first birthday,
          ("You are a terrible father. Heartless,"
          my mother told me that happy day.)
          Jessie in the back seat, babbling away,
          singing, swinging, never once falling
          asleep.

          And I've forgotten how she wide-eyed
          wondered at each passing streetlight,
          how she pointed out the moon,
          marveling anew each time she spotted it,
          holding the vowels in astonished glee,
          "Mooooooon!"

          (It appeared and disappeared
          behind trees and distant dull mountains
          as I snaked down the highway)

          "Yes, yes," Lisa or I would say
          without looking. "That's the moon."
          And Jessie would again cry,
          "Mooooooon!"

          A trip of wonders,
          a journey of light.
          I don't remember it.

          I do remember the rain, though,
          colorless, endless rain.

          I don't remember seeing,
          wandering the wet, dark
          grass of the median strip, deer,
          three of them, a mother
          and two young, I supposed--
          an analogy lost on me then.

          Nor do I remember wondering
          if I would find them blasted
          into pieces across the Interstate
          when I returned alone

          home. All that is lost.

          As is worrying what Lisa's weeping
          would do to the unborn one inside,
          if crying would become the music
          of the child's life, if tears
          would be her language--
          or his.

          A son.
          My god, a son.
          What have I done?

          But I don't remember that.

          To have memories is to be haunted.
          I don't believe in ghosts.

          Too, I don't remember
          the small, dim, windowless room
          in the terminal where we waited
          for the plane, now delayed by this rain;

          where Jessie, still awake, tottered
          around, smiling at strangers,
          bringing light and laughter
          to a broken midnight.

          "She's lovely," a woman said.
          "Thank you." Lisa smiled,
          not crying now, bowing
          to the obligation of propriety
          in public. "Yes, she is."

          The weight of my own obligations--
          to get to work the next day--
          as delayed hour moved to delayed hour
          and today moved to tomorrow,
          I've forgotten;

          and how Lisa and I discussed
          when it would be best for me to go
          get some sleep: Can't lose
          the job, we concluded.
          That's important.

          And of course I can't remember
          leaving the two--the three--
          of them in that gloomy room.
          (Jessie's distracted kiss and wave.
          "Bye, bye, Daddy. Bye, bye.")

          Leaving them not knowing
          if the plane would even arrive,
          leaving them with strangers,
          leaving them
          leaving.

          I remember the darkness,
          the not being able to see.

          But I don't remember driving back,
          screaming and violent, beating
          the seat, the dash, the steering wheel,
          until something broke--
          I've forgotten what--

          angry at nothing,
          afraid of everything,
          of the blinding lights behind me,
          of the unseen turns before,
          of not being able to sleep
          until I shut the door
          to Jessie's room--
          Once upon a time--
          and, even then, still
          not being able to sleep;

          or of finding on the highway
          a deer, turned inside out,
          its heart exposed, lying
          beside it like a loose black stone;
          of thinking, perhaps, if I stopped
          to look closely that maybe
          there was still some chance
          at life.

          I don't remember that.

          Or when the crying came,
          but it did, and that was the end of it,
          the end of not crying.
          It came even as I tried
          to stop it, again and again,
          to brush away tears
          that blurred my vision
          and made me close my eyes
          too often and too long
          for safe driving.

          It's all forgotten,
          all lost.

          I only remember
          the wipers,
          and the rain,
          and the blind,
          obliterating
          darkness.

          Copyright 2004, John Jeffrey, All Rights Reserved





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Document last modified on: 03/06/2005

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