THE SOPRANO LISTENER for Winnie
When she was eight and cross-eyed her teacher stood her against
the enormous auditorium wall with several others like herself.
She stood behind her glasses while everyone sang around her,
proud of her new title, “Soprano Listener,”
and wondered where the voices went when
their echoes finally died.
Her mother brought her to the Relief Office monthly where
she had to listen very hard, then repeat soundless words, slowly,
so her mother could read her lips.
Her mother was deaf, she tone-deaf.
She owned a doll and a shoebox but no dressy dresses.
When she was eighteen, she married a school teacher with a ukulele
who taught their children to read music when they were each eight years old,
while she wrapped left-over pot roast and hummed a different song,
a song without words
for the Soprano Listener.
On school day afternoons she hung the laundry out to dry and
watched the water-heavy clothing plummet to the alley
with a slap.
Two years after her divorce she woke her kids at midnight
for a pancake party.
When she was middle-aged her eldest son died.
She listened to the rabbi's litany, to the office ladies she had worked with for seventeen years, and, finally to her little grandson who asked if his dead uncle
had any bones left.
Copyright 2018 Rachel Levine
HIS SON'S DEATH
The dead leave messages on his answering machine.
He dreams he is wandering through a junkyard of prosthesis, and amid the debris he finds the gun.
It seems to him the important thing is to remember if
he had these dreams in the past.
Instead, he remembers his wife's face the day
they fled their home.
They were propped against someone's new Buick
when a neighbor finally took them in,
ashen and trembling in the July heat.
That house was so much like his own that
he nearly wept;
he could see his second story window; his son with a shotgun and a German Shepherd.
The neighbor was understanding but insisted on
calling the police because
someone had to take control of the situation.
He watched the heat rise off the car tops,
watched the cops march in and take his son out,
his body on a small stretcher, his feet
dangling like a baby's.
In spite of what he was told, he wonders how
his son could have fired through his own head with
But in the debris of his waking hours he finds no answer;
nothing at all,
nothing but silence.