that faint subpoena feel

by Michael Prihoda

I hear Marilynne Robinson
give a reading
in a distressingly empty theater,
half-stricken with the set
of next month’s performance,
her grandmother voice
wilting between her and the
twelve rows to me,
her words vessels for
the pain I still kept in little jars
from my grandmother’s death.
the softest shattering played
cello to accompany
acoustic tears
like an oil spill
life couldn’t quite absorb,
the lines of Marilynne’s face
like the borders I never
crossed, wanting a fictitious
passport, no fuel for a
broken-winged biplane
and she began answering
questions in the quiet,
my timidity chaining my tongue
from asking “are you proud of me?”
suddenly I knew why
people entered defeatist affairs
with untenable, unattainable
ideals at stake and I waited
until questions ceased
with the sputter
of a dying rhinoceros
(almost embarrassed by
his final moments as if
he distracted by living)
before leaving with
the faint subpoena
feel of having
an enormity
left unsaid

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