You stand in the kitchen, leaning
over the sink, suds dripping
between your fingers,
and say to me in the other room,
Imagine if we had children,
having to come home to play with them,
cook, deal with their homework,
no time to relax, no time to...

And I say, You know, we don't have to.

I picture your head tilting to the side,
your eyes focusing hard on the bubbles
floating in water, as you say,
Maybe next year
after I've settled into my career

Then silence as we both drift for a moment,
thinking about our lives and old age.
And you blurt out,
But if we don't
I'll have felt as though I missed something,
wouldn't you?

Suddenly I'm back ten years,
sitting on a couch with another woman,
trying to comfort her while fighting off the guilt.
We knew it was best: she was too old,
already had her own kids; I was too young,
and we weren't sure if it was love.

She had taken a long lunch,
drove to the clinic and checked in.
Later, she walked out into a light
that skimmed the trees.
And though I had paid for half,
it kept gnawing at me. It meant loss
was a thing we could bring on ourselves.

Now I hear your hands moving through water,
feel a weight tug at me,
like rope around my ankle that drags out
beyond the walls of the room.

Yes, I say, something might always be missing.


Poems by Richard Callin:

A New Life
Nine One One
Touring County Mayo, Eire
The Buick
How I'll Tell Him
A Story
Water Wheel

TIMES TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets