In our house, not once did we hear
someone say you’re welcome
in answer to thanks. Instead—“it’s all right,”
backhanded reminder of the sacrifice
this or that Dollar Store trinket
cost folks well below the poverty line.
This is a hard habit to break.
“Don’t worry, it’s fine” when you thank me
for helping you move furniture
or coming to your reading,
your wedding, your beloved’s funeral.
“Oh, it’s all right” to students
when they thank me for margin comments,
for letting them turn in assignments
half a semester late. “It’s all right”—
the door held open a few seconds longer
for the jock on crutches,
for the blue-eyed girl breathing
into the straw fixed to her wheelchair.
I want to thank the moon for tilting
in time to highlight the rain
spilling off a parked windshield,
my body for keeping itself free
so far from cancer, diabetes, suicide.
I want to thank my fear of death
for melting whenever a beautiful woman
bends to drink from a fountain.
I want to thank the crows for mating
on any windowsill but mine.
And their answer, rising in chorus
with each day’s rusty sunset:
It’s all right. It’s all right. It’s all right.
—from Rattle #33, Summer 2010