Today's poem is by Eric McHenry

You're Back


You went away and they went on
without you. When you reappeared
with kids and an ironic beard
the ticket carousel was full.
They'd finally stopped taking orders
from east of Dougal and redrawn
the map's eccentric ballpoint borders.
The dough hook dervished in its bowl.
Home is where your references
aren't recognized, or needed — when you
have to go back they have to clock you in.
The only other differences
were little changes to the menu.
Nobody asked you where you'd been.


Your daughter didn't have a single friend
named Stephanie, in soccer or at school.
Nobody screamed the name at either end
of the public pool.
And you began to understand, and mourn,
that there would have to be a great-grandmother
named Stephanie before there could be another
Stephanie born.
And the three Stephanies who gave the name
its amplitude, the Stephanies of myth,
kept showing up at Kroger and became
the Stephanies you went to high school with.


You went away and they went on
like that, as though you hadn't gone,
still doing it the way they'd learned
to do it and that only they
still do it and the only way
as far as they're concerned.
Then you came back and said I knew it
and told them you were unaware
of anybody anywhere
still doing it the way they do it,
and they said you don't say.


Only your first-grade teacher looked the same —
uncannily, because it was her daughter.
She had the makeup and had kept the name.
She even had the belly you could rub
for good luck when she brought you in to sub.
And she had plans to finish out the year,
but you'd been through this once before; her water
would break in April and she'd disappear
for thirty years and you'd be back like Kotter,
back to the blackboard, suddenly unsure
of how best to distinguish your from you're:
You're back, and bigger; better watch your back —
don't strain it sipp ing from those tiny fountains.
You're sad because your blackboard isn't black.
You're teaching them your harmlessly subversive
verse/choruses to "Cielito Lindo"
and other lovely, useless things, like cursive.
You're staring out your modular's one window,
turning the thunderheads to thundermountains.

Copyright © 2016 Eric McHenry All rights reserved
from Odd Evening
Waywiser Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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