Sitting On The Patio In Back Of My House
By Mary Harrison

At the end of the day I sit on the patio
in a green canvas chair, turn my face
toward the sky, listen
to the wail of a wandering wind, watch it
twist leaves from a silver maple,
then twist again.

Three doors from my house,
an ambulance turns into a drive,
sirens shrieking, red lights flashing.
Up and down Glendale, a sentinel of
dogs threaten.
Two boys bike past me,
the younger trailing the older, crying.
Is someone sick, or
dying? I pause to show respect.

Lately, I feel connected to strangers
who suffer the sting of a crisis
or a tragedy
as I try to understand why
my own son, Scott, shot himself
a year ago at age thirty-six.

Images of him break through
my urge to forget -- a young boy
lying awake at night, tearful
at being called 'Scott rot' by his brother,
a teenager in love with fishing, camping,
his girl friend and a Yamaha,
a man who seemed to have what he needed, except
the desire to live.

Today, I can almost reach out and touch him.

Sometimes I feel, in order to survive,
I must question individual life,
accept losing my son as
inconsequential as one flake or scale
shed from a honeycomb.

Another gust of wind sends a grackle,
shrieking, out of the junipers
onto a shifting wire where it hides
its underwings.
Sunflowers hang their heads, nod
as dark clouds roll by.
It seems as if the sky will never
be bright again. It's early fall, warm
with the smell of first dry leaves
under the silver maple
in my back yard. Temperature
has dropped twenty degrees
in the past hour.
I hope the paramedics brought blankets.

In movies, I've seen actors
walk through traffic with horns blaring,
jump from bridges into icy rivers,
get shot in dark alleys and come out alive.
In life, some are not so lucky.
None of us are meant to die like that --
a gun to the temple, a kick in the gut.
Birds have better instincts than humans.

The ambulance pulls away, rushes
down Glendale to a destination
unknown by me. The dogs return
to their lairs and except for the wind,
the grackle who continues to vocalize
and two light-hearted boys bike-racing
back and forth, the street is quiet.

Where the ambulance was, I see
an old woman under a tree,
her arms folded, face swollen into
a ball. She looks small and vulnerable
in front of her empty house,
her skirt whipping around her.
I turn to go inside, search for reasons
to be happy, find a way to live
in a wind-tossed world. The cry
of the grackle follows me,
its voice throbbing, magnified.

In honor and loving memory of Scott Harrison...


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