Shrapnel

I heard the news in the 2nd year of school
of a little girl’s mother passing away,

my blue-eyed friend
with delicate Hungarian features
and long hair carefully braided.

I didn’t understand,
not possible,
everyone had a mother, to be there
always.

Who would hold your hand on the walk to school
stroke your blond hair with fortitude
soothe your troubled dreams
forgive,

but your sweet mother had gone to heaven
forever.

I didn’t understand
how hard it was for a man, your father
to bring up three kids
while driving a bus for a living, balancing the shifts
learning to cook
overnight
learning how to wash, iron, clean, make lunches, be there for you
overnight
learning to be alone with three kids
overnight
while his empty heart
rattled
with shrapnel.

At your father’s funeral
memories and feelings
emerged
to tell a story spoken out loud
for the first time

and nothing could stop my tears
as I began to understand.

________________________________

For you Marilyn