Before the Move

Gayle Kaune


If I had not taken novelty as my lover,
wrapped my body around his bony knees and
if the white dog had not been deaf,
had followed my commands to sit and stay;
if the sky had not turned black every November,
and the front porches didn’t hold their lead boxes
containing 24-hour urine samples to monitor
the workers’ nuclear exposure;

if I had remembered the bloody births,
how forsythia bloomed
when I carried my babies home;
if I had noticed my husband’s arms
on summer evenings: bare, tan,
holding glasses of wine from the Horse Heavens,
irrigation sprinklers circling the fields, psst, psst;
if I had seen the jack rabbits
when I walked among bitterbrush
or paid attention driving home from my father’s demise —
seen the sun every Sunday searing the Western sky;
if I had counted the pieces of chalk my children
threw down on the sidewalk as precious,
or remembered the flowering plum —

if the Seveylor rafts, swim rings, bicycles
and boots had never let the garage;
if I had not told Carol about the house
at the beach and she hadn’t rented it —
her 16-year old daughter killed on the drive back,
or if I hadn’t met Sharon for coffee week after week
in the barista bar and she didn’t up
and die, taking my secrets with her;
if my black dog hadn’t curled
into a ball and writhed on the floor beside me,
the bridge covered with black ice,
the night we rushed him to the vet;

if I had noticed how my husband came through the door,
every evening, 6:10 PM, and pulled me into his fleece;
if I had not planted the arbore vitea that grew and grew,
or if I had cut windows in all the east walls of my house, 
catching morning sun; if I had not ignored the list of affections,
posted like indulgences, on every street corner,
then the derelict town wouldn’t have sent me away. 

I would have held Sharon’s hand before she died. 
placed my father’s ashes in some kind of grave,
watched the River roll out of town
with a force unimaginable, 
leaving me on the bank,
where I stayed and I stayed.



Gayle Kaune’s newest book, All the Birds Awake is from Tebot Bach. Peggy Shumaker
has said, “these vivid poems show us ways to live and ways to face the end of living.” her chapbook, Concentric Circles, won the Flume Press award. and her book, Still Life in the Physical World, is available from Blue Begonia Press. Individual poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and published widely in literary magazines including Seattle Review, Poet and Critic, and Crab Creek Review. She lives in Port Townsend with her husband and a ghost dog.

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