Buttons were the first things I searched for after she died.
Two dollars my mother paid me to sort and match,
thread sets together from a feathered spool,
confront the meagerness, the mind-numbing repeat,
two days of it, breakfast to bedtime.
She handed over money with the usual regret.
“Always in the moon,” she said.
“You didn’t even try.” I was a big-time dreamer
born on the wrong day.
Every year, now, I grow more ashamed.
It is like you are dead, or would be so
if only you’d – shut up. You know
it never really was what it was.
It must have taken a lot of chewing to choke that sinew down –
you were built for racing,
not talking – a boy who paused so long between speeches
I’d forget his Low Country burr
between them – I’d have to learn you all over again. I think you are
Count losses, girl –
a drawer full of buttons,
and a boy swallowed up by the man he has become –
cloud sky over South Carolina
pierced with one hundred gray sunbeams.
There goes a state prison convoy of six white vans.
Somebody sings. Somebody cries.