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Elbow Room

A letter brings me to my teenage father,
unpicks his bones and calls him back
from his week of boarder’s rations, his years
of darkness and silence, to where he sits
in the depths of winter in his cousins’ kitchen
and wolfs his Sunday lunch.

What does he say? He lifts a fork and vanishes
until now, how many winters
later, and his father, too, lifted and returned
to drive his hackney down the narrow roads
flat capped and with his elbow out the window
so close I can reach my hand across –

as if that casual elbow opened a portal,
poked through time to graze the city air
or as if I might somehow reach in to raise
these always resisting bones, always
unfinishable journeys. How much can you stretch
from lunch to dinner, from headstone to hearth

and back again? But the engine is running
in the unkillable car, my grandfather changes up
as he leaves the bend
and accelerates from the letter.
Around the corner, my father drains his cup,
pushes back his chair. After lunch

comes nothing, unmemory, unwritten.
I can follow them to nowhere, to where
the engine rusts and the broken years
lie in fields, and when the traffic stalls
I can open the window
and rest my arm on the door, let my elbow

graze the zone, let the altered day come in.


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