You asked your son to leave, but for a long time after,
you waited for him to call.
A few emails came, but months apart,
all brief, except the last one, when he told you
about working in a warehouse in some town
he did not name, and the power plant broke down,
and all he had to do was sweep, and how it had seemed easy,
but by the time he’d finished for the day,
he’d filled a huge container up with dust.
His words went on and on,
cascading down the entire screen,
then broke off as he caught himself:
“I guess you had to be there”.
You think of this letter often, now that you live with silence.
You try to see him in that place, dust swirling around him
like the fog in which he moved when he was young:
the spaciness, the cloudy eyes, as nothing seemed to register
just as you wanted, not school work, not your words, or blows.
Even the shelter of his mother’s arms
enfolding him had never made a difference.
These days you scan the internet
for local news in places he might be;
you search through all the websites where you think that he might post;
you call from time to time the only number that you have;
you send out emails, brief and cheerful,
asking how he is.
In dreams, you see a body:
beside an arc of frozen rails,
beneath a sheet of ice,
or swaddled in an envelope of dust.
Some days you call his mother, and her voice,
flinty across the distances between you,
informs you she knows nothing.
She tells you that he simply has let go.
What is it like, you wonder, to let go?
You want to do that too,
but then you search your desk for those few drawings
that he made, without a hint of talent, which you kept.
You smooth one out: a red brick street recedes
towards a rusty sun. You try to see him there,
just where the ranks of houses make a cleft at the horizon.
Yes, he appears, a figure dwindling in the smudged suggestion
of a sunset, body twisting to look back
as you call out and strain to see his face.
About the writer:
William Ellis received his PhD in English from Boston College. He currently teaches at Simon Fraser University. He has published fiction and poetry in a number of journals: Mala Literary Journal, Unshod Quills, Chengdu Grooves, HALiterature, New Millennium Writing, and The Good Men Project. His poems won first and second prize in the 2014 West End Writers Poetry Contest, first, second, and third prize in the 2015 North Shore Writers Association Poetry Contest, first prize in the 2016 and 2017 North Shore Writers Association Contests, and three honorable mentions in the 2019 North Shore Writers Association Contest.
Image: “Drifting Winds” by Patricia Finley. Mixed media (resin with paint, pigment, and ink) on panel. 36 x 36 inches. No completion date specified. By permission. Finley, formerly a trial lawyer, was born in Iowa and is an alumna of Arizona State University. An award-winning artist in a unique and challenging medium, she has participated in numerous group, duo and solo shows. Her art can be found in collections from Alaska to Boston, from Australia to England.