Mercer Street
Elizabeth, called Betty, took to her bed in 1952.
She had five daughters: Gale, Mary, Jean, Roberta, and Fran.
Geraniums in the window box, dahlias at the fence.
Albert lived three houses down.

Betty had a dog named Fuzzy, who roamed free.
At 5:00, when Fuzzy followed Albert home, she'd say
There goes a very smart man and a very smart dog.

Albert published the General Theory of Relativity in 1916.
After sleeping beneath the bed, refusing to eat,
Fuzzy limped in front of a moving car.
Time tells matter to move, matter tells time to curve.

Stewart, son of Fran, who lives at 1608,
Told me these stories, all of which are true.
To prove I liked solitude, which I didn't, never did,

I built my study in the basement when we moved to 1685.
Today, I see myself not as an older man
But as the man I might have been.
I wear his clothes, I look each morning to the sky.

Barberry, a locust chewing on a leaf,
Fran still drives downtown but once she gets
There can't remember why.

---James Longenbach
From The Iron Key
©2010 W. W. Norton
Send us e-mail


Go Home

Go to the most recent RALPH