“They Began Late” by Kathleen A. Wakefield

Kathleen A. Wakefield


hoping they’d have enough time
for the life they imagined, waking together,
cups of coffee, days of work, supper and dishes.
They had a machine that could do it all, but he liked to wash,
so she dried with a view to the crabapple out back
and the honeysuckle bloom that followed.

They lived in the house he’d grown used to
without changing a thing but the kitchen curtains.
She’d had her disappointments and still the faith of a mountain,
insurance, he suspected, against the kind of despair
that hollows out a person. He saw himself
more as meadow soaking up whatever was there.

Light shone from the back of her eyes.
He had a broad, deep laugh
that could hold anyone in its bowl of sound.
They didn’t speak of the inevitable.
Were amazed by the fire that burned in their bodies.
Had you seen their hands swinging
together down the street at dusk you’d swear
they were children walking this earth.

from Rattle #59, Spring 2018


Kathleen A. Wakefield: “My second grade teacher, Mrs. Hendrickson, was to become one of the most important influences on my writing life, but not because she complimented what had to be my clichéd rhyming poems: She gave me sheets of blank paper with institutional green covers held together by those metal clasps which spread like sharp wings. I’d fill one ‘book,’ and she’d give me another. No ‘Goods!’ or ‘That’s great!’ or commentary, but simply more blank pages to fill. And yet, she was also one of the strictest; you did not open your desk top (yes, I belong to that era) until she said to do so! ‘They Began Late’ belongs to a series of voice poems that have haunted my writing as of late. My most recent book includes several of these kinds of poems. I work in a public library where I am lucky to be able to share my love of poetry in book discussion groups and at a senior residence with folks in their 90s who are some of the best and most appreciative readers of poetry.”

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