Published on Academy of American Poets (



Before he left for combat,
he took care of everything:
someone to plow the driveway,
cut the grass.
And the letter he wrote me,
just in case, sealed,
somewhere, in a drawer;
can't be opened,
must be opened
if he doesn't return.
I feel for my keys, 
hear his voice:
Less is better. Late
for work, still,
I linger
at the window of the Century
Florist, a bowl of peonies,
my face among the tulips.


Last Mother's Day, when
he was incommunicado,
nothing came.
Three days later, a message
in my box; a package,
the mail room closed.
I went out into the lobby,
banged my fist against 
the desk. When they 
gave it to me, I clutched it
to my chest, sobbing 
like an animal.
I spoke to no one,
did not apologize.
I didn't care about the gift.
It was the note I wanted,
the salt from his hand,
the words.


From The Warrior: A Mother's Story of a Son at War by Frances Richey. Copyright © 2008 by Frances Richey. Used by permission of Penguin. All rights reserved.


Frances Richey

Frances Richey is the author of The Warrior: A Mother’s Story of a Son at War (Penguin Books, 2008) and The Burning Point (White Pine Press, 2004), winner of the White Pine Press Poetry Prize. She lives in New York City.

Date Published: 2008-01-01

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