Nailing Things Down

may also kill them,
           but she had no great plans
                      to live happily ever after.

Today is all she could manage,
           that & the breathless sounds of Pres,
                      tamping down the day’s anarchy.

Twenty years earlier, her voice left her,
           so she quit smoking. When it returned
                      it was vibrating like a dusty contralto.

Today she smells facts:
           the air thick with tomorrow’s rain,
                      a slow leak in the basement.

The five shots of Jameson on his breath.

           His undershirt brushed with
                      someone else’s perfume, a scent
                                 she’d worn in high school—Shalimar.

Twenty years ago, on a dime,
           she’d have cut or shot him to clear
                      the air, but today is not that day.

Today she looks at her body 
           with some hesitation. It’s late
                      in the morning & the gravy’s
                                                gonna run thin tonight.

Will she miss the wanting, the having or the gone?


Copyright © 2022 by Linda Susan Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 4, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Some time ago, I was visiting a very good friend in California, and while she ran into a supermarket, I stayed in the car with her daughter, who was four years old at the time. To engage her, I asked her one of those silly questions adults typically ask. I don’t remember my question, but I’ll never forget her answer. She looked me straight in the eye, shrugged her shoulders and said, ‘I don’t know, but answers may vary.’ So, this poem concerns itself with aging, loss, backward glances, some hard-won insights, and also asks a question at the end to which answers may vary.”
Linda Susan Jackson