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They come out of the 1940's

to be your parents. Their faces

swim and settle into clarity.

The crook of an arm. The fount

of a breast. They come from

the time before your life,

before the things that fill

your life. Before water

sprang from the faucet. Before

television loomed in the corner

and even the house cats gathered

to watch. They come from after

the war, when all the movies

were jubilant, even the sad ones

bloodless. It's as if you

were handed down to them,

as if you were a pearl

they would polish into life.

From times of great difficulty

they come, though speaking

with a deep nostalgia, 

lowering the language to you

like a ladder, rung by rung.

Before you existed, they are,

which is like something

out of the Bible. Out of

their own childhoods they come

to be stricken with this, 

to be stricken with time,

of which you are the immediate

symptom. Bringing their jewelry

and shaving brushes, wearing

their fedoras and hairdos, 

they come to be your parents.

You have your father's eyes

someone says. But no, you

have your mother's face and eyes

is the more common opinion.

They send you wobbling out

like a top in front of them.

The wind could almost bowl

you over. You turn back

and they are dressed

like characters in a movie

or a dream. You turn back

and this is love. Your own name

sinks in and separates you.

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Max Garland is the author of The Word We Used for It, winner of the 2017-18 Brittingham Poetry Prize.

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Phone: 608.733.6633


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Madison, WI 53703
Phone: 608.733.6633 x25