Words Lost and Found

I lost a poem. Forever lost. Written in my teens, maybe early twenties, I haven’t thought about it in decades, however for whatever reason it surfaced in my brain yesterday morning:

Dead bird feast
mashed potatoes
and gravy

That’s it. That’s all that is left of it because that is all I remember. I think it got philosophical from there.

While searching my box of poetry that is written on papers and in sketch books I did find a short story I wrote in 1979. Micro Fiction, not even 400 words:


“The truth can make you free only if you are already free enough to want it, to go forth to meet it, to recognize it when you see it, and to accept it even if it hurts.” – Sydney Harris

Elizabeth labored slowly, dutifully. She tended the washer and dryer, in turn, warmed the water soaking the dishes, and pushed the vacuum cleaner over the wall-to-wall miles. Silently, she imaged her womb-child and repeated her husband’s accusations, measuring the balance of the two.

Deep in her heart, her unborn daughter had already taken shape and personality: the first unsteady steps; the prima ballerina she had never been. Mentally, Elizabeth unpacked the dolls she had collected; the books she had cherished. Her daughter would have Tom’s sense of strength and her older sister’s sense of style.

A month ago Elizabeth had hesitated with her knowledge. She could judge Tom’s reaction and had no courage to confront it. At dinner, the previous evening she finally summoned as much as she could manage and approached him.

“You’re what!” he demanded disbelievingly.

“Pregnant,” she whispered, forcing a quiver out of her voice.

Tom sank into his chair silently as her reply penetrated. His face grew dark, cloudy, and in one thunderous eruption, he sent the dinner dishes crashing to the kitchen floor. He locked his hands around her shoulders and rained curses on his wife, his marriage, and her deceit.

Was it deceit? Elizabeth searched her mind for the answer. When they first married, Tom had worshipped his bride. Gradually the novelty dwindled though and Elizabeth realized he was not the escape she had imagined or the man she had married. Tom’s private pilgrimage carried him deeper into alcohol and his “one bag a week for pleasure” habits. His friends were her acquaintances. Month by month, year following year, Elizabeth withdrew until Tom had labeled her frigid.

At breakfast that morning Tom was tender and apologetic. He ate with his calculator, comparing his paycheck against the new expense. Absently, he mentioned his family’s tradition of giving the firstborn son the father’s name. Obsequiously, he left her the Trans Am keys.

Patiently, deliberately, Elizabeth wound the vacuum cord. Unable to bury her doubts or face a decision, she turned to the sink and the waiting dishes.

The End

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